Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares engaged in a scintillating, punch-filled featherweight match that had the group on the Staples Heart in Los Angeles cheering wildly all through the 12-round bout.
In the long run, it was the extra correct Santa Cruz who gained a unanimous choice by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 to retain his featherweight title.
“It was a great fight — another war,” Santa Cruz stated. “I had to be smarter. … Abner is a great fighter. He left his heart out there.”
The all-action bout was a rematch of their thrilling August 2015 bout on the identical venue, which Santa Cruz gained by majority choice.
On the sound of the opening bell, Santa Cruz and Mares picked up proper the place they left off the primary time, standing toe-to-toe and exchanging punches at a rapid-fire tempo. Mares edged the primary and second rounds, making good use of his left hook on the within, as Santa Cruz countered with stable punches of his personal.
The 29-year-old Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) jabbed and countered successfully within the third, stopping Mares (31-Three-1, 15 KOs) from closing the hole. It was a tactic that Santa Cruz, from Rosemead, California, put to good use for the rest of the battle.
It was extra of the identical for the subsequent 4 rounds, as Santa Cruz managed the space and related incessantly with jabs and a straight proper to the pinnacle. Even so, the 32-year-old Mares, from Montebello, California, stored coming.
Mares lastly obtained shut sufficient to do some harm within the eighth, swarming ahead to have his greatest spherical for the reason that second. An unintended conflict of heads opened a lower over Santa Cruz’s left eye, but it surely by no means grew to become a significant component.
“A cut is a cut,” Santa Cruz stated. “It’s just blood. If anything, it brings more hunger out of me.”
Mares continued to press ahead and rating within the ninth, however close to the tip of the spherical, Santa Cruz jarred him with two onerous pictures to the pinnacle.
The 10th was one other shut spherical with each boxers touchdown repeatedly, however Santa Cruz’s punches have been cleaner and appeared to have extra snap.
The 11th was one other give-and-take spherical. Santa Cruz scored effectively early, and Mares rallied late.
Sensing he was behind, Mares launched a closing assault within the 12th spherical.
Santa Cruz stood his floor and so they traded bursts of physique pictures. One flurry adopted one other and, as they did on the finish of just about each spherical, the pair completed the battle standing chest-to-chest, banging away with every thing that they had.
In response to CompuBox, Santa Cruz landed 357 of 1061 punches (34 p.c); Mares landed 208 of 931 (22 p.c).
“Without a doubt, Leo is the No. 1 featherweight in the world,” Mares stated. “I said before the fight that the winner of this would be the best in the world. I take my hat off to him.”
Santa Cruz stated he subsequent needs a title unification battle with Gary Russell Jr., who additionally has a featherweight belt.
“Hopefully I am [the best featherweight in the world],” Santa Cruz stated. “But I leave it to the fans to say who is the best. … I want Gary Russell. Let’s unify. I’m not scared of anybody.”
The Related Press contributed to this report.