The highly anticipated clash on August 29th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA between current WBC Jr. Featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz and former three-division world champion Abner Mares certainly lived up to the anticipation that preceded it. In one corner stood Leo Santa Cruz a fighter who was undefeated in thirty-one professional fights who was fighting for the second time in the 126lb. Featherweight division. Standing across the ring from Santa Cruz was Abner Mares a fighter who had only been defeated once in thirty-one career bouts of his own prior to this fight.
Stylistically this was a fight that had action written all over it. Both fighters are boxer/punchers, who are both capable of ending fights early and both have the ability to out box their opposition. The question this observer had prior to this fight was whether the 5’4 Mares, who has a sixty-six inch reach would be able to get on the inside of the 5’7 Santa Cruz, who had a three inch reach advantage for extended periods of time. I also wondered whether this will be a tactical Boxing match or if it would develop into a shootout.
It was no surprise given that this was a battle between two offensive-minded fighters to see this fight fought at a high pace from the outset with both fighters being willing to engage. In some ways, one could make an argument that it was a bout where two different types of fights took place in one fight. Mares had a clear advantage during periods where he was able to close distance between himself and Santa Cruz and get on the inside. During those periods although there were several exchanges between the two fighters it appeared that Mares was able to get the better of the action.
In contrast to Mares, Santa Cruz appeared to be most effective during periods where he was able to control distance and thus nullify Mares’ pressure. Santa Cruz was also effective in being able to catch Mares with his offense as Mares came forward as the fight progressed.
Although Mares was the more aggressive of the two fighters throughout much of this fight, one thing that was noticeably absent was the use of his jab as he came forward. As the fight progressed Santa Cruz was able to stand out a little more from Mares by being effective with his counter punches, being able to control the distance of the fight more, and landing the more effective punches of the two.
When it comes to fights that are fought at a high pace where both fighters are able to execute their offense, it can often boil down to which fighter was able to be more effective. Although the task of determining who is able to be more effective may appear to be one that is simple to some, it can be and often is an extremely difficult task especially for judges who have the responsibility of scoring a fight. Such fights are often close and end up with differing scores from the official judges, fans, and experts alike.
After twelve hard-fought rounds it was not surprising to see this fight end up with differing opinions. Two official judges Jesse Reyes and Steve Morrow turned in identical scores of 117-111 or nine rounds to three in favor of Santa Cruz giving him a twelve round majority decision victory. Although the two official scores which resulted in Santa Cruz winning this fight may appear to be lopsided, if one watches the fight round by round as the official judges who score fights on a round by round basis, it is much closer.
It is certainly understandable that fans and experts alike could have this fight scored much closer as the third official judge Max DeLuca had scored the fight 114-114 or six rounds to six a draw or how some could see Mares as the winner by differing scores that may not be unlike the scores of judges Reyes and Morrow.
Unofficially, I scored this fight 116-112 or eight rounds to four in favor of Santa Cruz. In this observer’s eyes it came down to how Santa Cruz was able to gradually control distance and land the cleaner more effective punches as the fight progressed, particularly in the middle and late rounds. It was however, a very difficult fight to score and frankly I can see an argument for either fighter having won the fight.
The fight, which was to determine a new WBA Featherweight world champion following former champion Nicholas Walters being stripped of the title for failing to make weight prior to his fight with Miguel Marriaga in June of this year turned out to be a fight of the year candidate. For Leo Santa Cruz now an unbeaten two-division world champion and a former three-division world champion in Abner Mares the battle solidified their standing as a rising stars in the sport. If the action this fight produced as well as the significant television ratings for the fight, which headlined a Premier Boxing Champions card on ESPN in the United States averaging 1.2 million viewers is any indication Santa Cruz-Mares is certainly deserving of an encore.
Whether or not a rematch between the two comes in the immediate future remains to be seen. For the increasingly popular Premier Boxing Champions series, which airs across several networks across broadcast and cable television this was essentially the type fight that the series is all about. To bring Boxing to the masses and put on the best fights possible for Boxing fans. If a rematch between Santa Cruz and Mares is signed, it would not surprise this observer to see it headline a future Premier Boxing Champions card.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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