Santa Cruz outpoints Mares in hard-fought battle
Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) defeated Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) by majority decision to win the vacant WBA featherweight title on Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The two Mexican fighters battled hard throughout, but Santa Cruz landed the greater punches and two judges had him winning by scores of 117-111, while the third judge scored it a 114-114 draw.
From the opening bell, they charged at each other and exchanged big shots.
Mares, who was cut over the left eye from a clash of heads in the third, continued to attack Santa Cruz and was the busier, but his opponent shook off his shots and started to control the bout with a sharp jab from his superior reach.
Santa Cruz was able to box very effectively from the outside while Mares fought to get inside for a chance to throw uppercuts, but Santa Cruz usually maintained distance and used his left hook to punish him.
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 final round with the same discipline and precision.
In an epic 12th round that brought the crowd to its feet, Santa Cruz and Mares traded heavy shots until the final bell with neither willing to take a backwards step.
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.
“We want to be aggressive but tonight we had to box him too and that’s how we got it done.”
Mares said: “It was a close fight but I thought I won the fight. I thought I pulled it off. 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.”