Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) and Abner Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs) put on a ferocious display of speed, accuracy and timely punching in front of their home crowd.
Both fighters exchanged punches with bad intentions but Santa Cruz was able to use his reach and counter effectively to win by 12-round unanimous decision at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
The real winners were the 12,505 fights fans in attendance who witnessed an absolute slugfest from beginning to end. Punches flew early and often but Mares could not keep up with Santa Cruz’ volume. Judges scored the bout 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 in favor of Santa Cruz who retained his WBA featherweight title.
“It was a great fight,” said Santa Cruz during the post-fight interview. “I had to be smarter and I had to do what I had to do to win. I love the crowd. Whatever I can do to please them, I do it.”
Both California based fighters combined to throw nearly 2,000 punches according to Sho Stats. In the second round, they exchanged combinations in the middle of the ring before Mares landed two big right hands at the end of the round.
The action continued in the middle rounds with Santa Cruz and Mares trading a flurry of punches to close the seventh round. Mares began pressuring Santa Cruz but kept eating four punch combinations and left hooks that Santa Cruz was landing with precision.
Santa Cruz suffered a cut over his left eye from an accidental head butt in the eighth round but seemed unfazed with the blood streaming down his face.
“A cut is a cut,” said Santa Cruz. “It’s just blood. It wasn’t bothering me in my eye. If anything, it brings more motivation.”
The 29-year-old featherweight champion said he wants to fight WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. and WBO champion Oscar Valdez, if that fight can be made.
“I want to prove I’m the best,” said Santa Cruz during the post-fight press conference. “To do that, I need to beat the champions.”
All photos by Stephanie Trapp/Showtime