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Santa Cruz vs. Mares replay this Tuesday, September 1st on ESPN at 9pm ET

PBC BOXING AUG 29 2015 STAPLES CENTERBy Tim Fletcher: For boxing fans who didn’t get a chance to see the war between Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 18 KOs) and Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) last Saturday night, the Mares-Santa Cruz fight will be on replay this Tuesday, September 1st on ESPN at 9:00 p.m. ET.

The fight was shown on Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN last Saturday night in what many fans believe could be the Fight of the Year. It’s certainly the best fight that I’ve seen this year up to this point. For a fight that was shown on free television, this was a great deal.

To see fights as exciting as this, you would think that you’d have to pay a boatload of money to see it on pay-per-view. It was a great deal for fans to see it free.

Their fight was a thrilling affair with tons of action when Santa Cruz was able to pry Mares off of him. Mares did a lot of smothering in the second half of their fight with him holding, and doing a lot of wrestling on the inside.

It was pretty clear that Mares’ trainer Virgil Hunter decided that the best plan for Mares to win the fight was for him to try and wrestle/smother Santa Cruz on the inside. But at the end of the day, it was Santa Cruz who wound up out – boxing Mares with his jab and superior outside game.

“I was surprised Abner came out so strong,” Santa Cruz said. “He came right at me but we figured him out and we got the win. I stayed outside with the jab. We were able to take control. My dad told me that we could beat him by boxing.”

It was wise of Santa Cruz to focus on both boxing and punching in this fight, because if he had concentrated only on slugging it out, the fight would have been a lot closer than it was. Mares was going to make it tough on Santa Cruz by looking to try and fight defensively.

“We want to be aggressive but tonight we had to box him too and that’s how we got it done,” Santa Cruz said. “If he wants the rematch, I’ll give him the rematch,” Santa Cruz said. “I want to fight the best. I want the big fights.”

The fight ended up being a bloody affair with Santa Cruz and Mares both cut. Mares suffered a cut in the 3rd round from a head-butt. He was fine with the one cut until a second cut was opened over the other eye in the 10th. From that point on, Mares had blood streaming into both eyes, making it problematic for him to see.

A rematch between Santa Cruz and Mares would be an interesting thing for boxing fans looking for more nonstop action. However, it might not be the best thing for Santa Cruz, because he’s capable of a lot more in his career than getting stuck in endless rematches against a guy that he already proven that he’s better than.

Santa Cruz could fight guys like Gary Russell Jr. or Lee Selby in unification matches, and that would be a lot more interesting for fans to see him unify the titles rather than getting stuck in a rematch cycle with Mares.

“It was a close fight but I thought I won the fight. I thought I pulled it off,” said Mares. “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. Leo is good. He’s a great fighter. I knew it was going to be a tough fight.”

Mares started out fast in taking the fight to Santa Cruz, but he switched things up soon after by the 3rd round in focusing on his defensive side of his game. In hindsight, it might have been better for Mares to continue to slug with Santa Cruz, because he didn’t do himself any favors when he started focusing on being defensive.

The problem with Mares fighting defensively is that he was doing too much holding and wrestling. He also was getting out-boxed by the longer armed Santa Cruz, who beat Mares at his own game by doing a better job of boxing him from the outside.

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