Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, in a fight televised live on ESPN, Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs), from Rosemead, California, by way of Huetamo, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico, decisioned Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs), from Montebello, California, by way of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to win the WBA Super featherweight title.
It was an exciting, all-action fight, if not the fight as advertised. It wasn’t the fighters’ fault. They gave it their all. Thousands of punches were thrown. Blood was spilled. It was nonstop. It was thrilling.
What it was not was Fight of the Year.
But the first round, a Round of the Year candidate, was a round to remember. Mares, fighting out of the red corner in black trunks trimmed in gold, flew at Santa Cruz at the opening bell. He wanted to put on a show. He wanted Santa Cruz out of there.
Santa Cruz, fighting out of the blue corner in red, white and green trunks, weathered the storm, all six minutes of it. He was pelted with punches. He countered with thunderbolts. But then the storm subsided.
Round three began, and the fight ceased being competitive.
For all the guts Mares displayed, he lacks the essential skills required to compete with Santa Cruz. He landed punches, plenty of punches, 227 of 980 to Santa Cruz’s 373 of 1057. But except for the opening rounds, it never felt like Mares was in it. He tried and failed to get the better of Santa Cruz, who used his height, reach, and boxing IQ to cruise to victory.
“My dad told me that we could beat him by boxing,” said Santa Cruz after the fight. “We want to be aggressive, but tonight we had to box him, too. And that’s how we got it done.”
Mares’ strategy made sense—bring it to Santa Cruz, hurt Santa Cruz, take him to places he’s never been before—even though it was unsuccessful.
“I think I made a mistake in my strategy,” Mares said. “I came out strong and my corner was telling me to slow down. I wanted to go as fast as I could.”
Going fast wasn’t the problem. The problem was the man in the opposite corner. Santa Cruz has a perfect record. He’s never tasted defeat. He’s a fighter on the rise. He’s a phenomenon.
Mares has delivered more than his share of thrills and spills during his wonderful career. But he was no match for the younger, taller, fresher Leo Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz vs. Mares can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA2LpmOtTlI
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.