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Santa Cruz Wins the Battle of LA

by Michael Montero – A crowd of 13,109 packed the Staples Center on a hot summer night in Los Angeles to see the highly anticipated featherweight clash between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares. The fight headlined a very entertaining PBC on ESPN card and would more than live up to its “Battle of LA” billing. Mares entered the ring first to a mixture of boos and cheers. Santa Cruz made his ring walk next and it was clear that the crowd was on his side, probably 3 to 1. The tension was thick as referee Jack Reiss gave the fighters their final instructions and they touched gloves. It was an electric atmosphere and the noise ringside was deafening as the opening bell sounded.

Mares came out funs blazing in the opening round, while Santa Cruz attempted to tie him up on the inside and smother his attack. The taller fighter was able to weather the early onslaught, create some distance and land some shots from the outside. Mares came out ripping the body in the second, with Santa Cruz again trying to establish distance. Both fighters were trading leather, and there were several furious exchanges throughout that had the crowd on their feet.

It was more of the same in the third, as both fighters appeared to have found their rhythm. There was a clash of heads halfway through that Jack Reiss correctly ruled accidental. Both fighters appeared to come out of it without a visible damage, however another head butt in the fourth would open a cut high on Mares’ head and it appeared to bother him a little. The fans were promised blood, and blood had been drawn.

It was becoming a war of attrition into the middle rounds. Both fighters had settled in and were being more selective with their punches, yet still throwing in combination with bad intentions. Santa Cruz began using his length and more accurate punching to slowly gain control of the bout from the outside. Abner still had his moments, but appeared increasingly frustrated as the fight progressed. When the Guadalajara native would get inside and tee off Leo was able to contain him, turn him, and spin out. Still there were great exchanges where it seemed each man would get off dozens of punches in a matter of seconds. A solid combination toward the end of the eighth rocked Mares, who immediately clinched to clear his head. Both men were visibly tired as the championship rounds approached, but it was Mares who looked beat up with blood streaming down his face. None the less Abner kept punching, letting his opponent know that he still had plenty of fight left in him.

Heading into the eleventh round it felt as though Santa Cruz was ahead, but it was still a close and very competitive bout. Mares threw an average of almost 80 punches thrown per round, well above the average for his career of around 60. It was clear that he was trying to match his opponent’s volume, but Santa Cruz just seemed more accurate. In the end both fighters would combine to throw over 2,000 punches and were swinging away as the final bell sounded. As most boxing experts predicted, a highly entertaining slugfest was going to the scorecards.

Judges Steve Morrow and Jesse Reyes scored it 117-111 for Santa Cruz, and somehow Max DeLuca had it a draw at 114-114. DeLuca’s poor scorecard robbed Santa Cruz of what should have been a unanimous decision victory, yet he still got the win via majority decision to improve 31-0-1 (17KO). Mares fell to 29-2-1 (15KO) and made it clear that he wanted a rematch. When asked in the post-fight presser, Santa Cruz said he’d be willing to oblige his opponent’s request if that’s what the fans want.

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