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Santa Cruz defeats Mares

By Jim Dower: Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) remained unbeaten with an impressive 12 round majority decision over former three division world champion Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) to capture the WBA Super World and WBC Diamond featherweight titles on Saturday night in a blood-filled fight on Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on ESPN at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. This was one was perhaps the best that we’ve seen from PBC. Santa Cruz-Mares is definitely a fight of the year candidate.

The final judges’ scores were 114-114, 117-111, and 117-111. The fight appeared to be a clear win for the 27-year-old Santa Cruz. It’s unclear what fight the judge was watching who scored it 114-114.

Santa Cruz landed the cleaner shots all throughout the fight, and had Mares blooding badly from his right eye by the 10th round. Both fighters were cut from a clash of heads in the 2nd round. The clash of heads resulted in Mares being cut on his scalp and Santa Cruz around his left eye.

The taller Santa Cruz used his height and reach to dominate the shorter 29-year-old Mares from the outside all night long. Any time there was distance between the two fighters, Santa Cruz was able to nail Mares with huge shots to the head.

Mares attempted to smother Santa Cruz all night long by pressing his body against him at close quarters and choosing to fight with short punches in close. It’s the same style as WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward uses for his fights, but in this case it was much less effective because Mares wound up smothering his own work. The frequently smothering that Mares did resulted in the boxing fans at ring side booing. They wanted action, and Mares looked like he was focusing on trying to keep Santa Cruz from getting his shots off. But when the two of them would be separated, Santa Cruz was always able to get in some big shots before Mares would grab him with a clinch.

There was a close of two-way flurries in the fight, especially in the early rounds before Mares got defensive.

Santa Cruz landed 373 of 1057 punches thrown with a connect percentage of 35, according to CompuBox. Mares connected on 227 of 980 shots with a connect percentage of 23.

After the fight, Mares complained bitterly that he felt that he had done more than enough to get the victory. However, it was hard to age with him because he spent so much of the time attempting to smother Santa Cruz on the inside and not landing enough telling shots in the fight.

“It was a close fight, but I thought I won the fight. I thought I pulled it off,” Mares said. “My plan was to box him, but I started out really fast. I felt good but my corner told me to box more, so I did that. It was a good fight.”

Other boxing results on the card:

Julio Ceja TKO 5 Hugo Ruiz
Brian Castano DQ 5 Jonathan Batista
Alan Castano TKO 4 Thomas Howard
Anthony Flores MD 6 Curtis Morton
Paul Mendez TKO 2 Andrik Saralegui
Isaiah Najera UD 4 Antonio Santa Cruz
Jose Gomez UD 4 Manuel Rubalcava

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