Leo Santa Cruz defeats Abner Mares to remain unbeaten
Last Updated: 30/08/15 8:02am
Leo Santa Cruz maintained his unbeaten record with an impressive majority decision victory over fellow Mexican featherweight Abner Mares.
Santa Cruz (31-0-1) survived a night of furious exchanges and eventually controlled several rounds with his superior jab and reach, overcoming Mares' heavy pressure. Mares (29-2-1) did admirable work inside and survived numerous big shots, but ultimately couldn't land a decisive blow.
A raucous crowd at Staples Center favored Santa Cruz over Mares, but just barely. Both fighters were born in Mexico and grew up in the Los Angeles area, attracting a large turnout for local bragging rights.
Two judges scored the fight 117-111 for Santa Cruz, while Max DeLuca had a 114-114 draw.
"My dad told me that we could beat him by boxing," Santa Cruz said about his father and trainer, Jose. "We want to be aggressive, but tonight we had to box him, too. And that's how we got it done."
In just his second 126-pound fight, Santa Cruz landed sharper and bigger punches during long stretches of the bout, which was mostly action-packed from the opening bell.
The crowd of 13,109 was worked into a furore by an entertaining undercard, and the fighters responded to that energy by basically running straight at each other and throwing haymakers.
They took only occasional breaks in that pace during the frenetic first half of the fight, even after both were cut during a clash of heads in the third.
"I think I made a mistake in my strategy," Mares said. "I came out strong, and my corner was telling me to slow down. I wanted to go as fast as I could."
Once the initial frenzy wore off, Santa Cruz began to control the bout with a sharp jab from his superior reach. Mares fought to get inside for a chance to throw uppercuts, but Santa Cruz usually maintained distance and used his left hook to punish Mares, who had blood trickling down his cheek.
Mares had a cut near his right eye in the late rounds, but he kept throwing shots to Santa Cruz's body. Santa Cruz calmly kept peppering Mares' face, and he pushed into the 12th round with the same discipline and precision.
Los Angeles boxing fans had eagerly anticipated this matchup for several years. Both Santa Cruz and Mares were born in Mexico and raised in the Los Angeles area before rising to the top of the lighter-weight classes with impressive pro careers.
Santa Cruz, who grew up in the nearby Lincoln Heights neighbourhood, became a rising star as a fixture on the undercards of major fights. His career slowed in recent years with a series of matchups against second-tier contenders for his WBC 122-pound title, but he moved up in weight last May on the Mayweather-Pacquiao undercard.
Mares won titles in three weight classes during an impressive two-year span, but his progress was interrupted by a stunning first-round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013. After 11 months off, he has returned with three straight wins.
Mares campaigned for this matchup in the media for quite a while, and Santa Cruz agreed to the fight through boxing guru Al Haymon, who manages both fighters under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.