Santa Cruz Survives War Against Mares, Retains WBA Title

The first chapter in the Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares rivalry was a war and the sequel was just as brutal. But just like in their first encounter back in 2015, Santa Cruz walked away with the WBA featherweight title after a 12-round battle.

Santa Cruz retained the WBA title with a unanimous decision win over Mares (115-113, 116-112, 117-111) in a fight that was as action-packed as their first encounter.

The fight started with Mares landing several combinations on the inside and getting the better of numerous exchanges in the early going. Santa Cruz eventually starts to get into a rhythm after a couple of rounds thanks to his jab.

It was the jab, coupled by Santa Cruz’s reach advantage that gave him many of the middle rounds as Mares tried to close the distance. At times, Mares was successful in doing just that, but Santa Cruz was even more successful in using his long arms to keep Mares away from his body.

The exchanges between the two boxers always sent the crowd at the Staples Center into a frenzy, replicating the atmosphere from their first fight. As the fight progressed, Santa Cruz continued to throw and land the 1-2 combinations and utilize the jab in order to win rounds.

Eventually, what appeared to be an accidental clash of heads created a cut around Santa Cruz’s left eye. Although it ended up being a non-factor by the end, during the fight, the referee had actually ruled that the cut was caused by a punch, meaning Santa Cruz would lose the title if the fight got stopped due to the cut.

The fight ended in a wild slugfest as both men threw caution to the win and exchanged dozens of punches in the final round.

Santa Cruz not only retained the WBA title, but also won the WBC Diamond belt and said he would be interested in a fight against WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr., an idea Santa Cruz threw around during the build up to their fight.

Leo Santa Cruz (c) vs. Abner Mares: WBA Featherweight Title Bout

Round 1: The Los Angeles crowd erupts as the fight begins and Santa Cruz throws many short jabs to start. Mares closes the distance and lands several hard body shots. Mares and Santa Cruz exchange numerous combinations throughout the round.

Round 2: Mares continues to attack the body and is landing his right hand well. Both men continue to exchange punches with Santa Cruz landing with the left hook upstairs. Mares is throwing more punches and seemingly getting the better of the exchanges.

Round 3: Santa Cruz lands a strong counter left jab to Mares. Mares responds with a left uppercut that lands on Santa Cruz’s chin. Both men start to throw jabs at each other. Mares misses with the overhand right as Santa Cruz lands a right uppercut.

Round 4: The fight continues to be a brawl as both effortlessly throw dozens of punches to each other in every round. Mares lands a double jab as he now tries to avoid fighting on the inside. Santa Cruz goes on the defensive until the end of the round.

Round 5: Santa Cruz starts off well in this round as he’s able to defend better against Mares’ onslaught of punches. Santa Cruz lands a 1-2 combination upstairs. The champion is now walking down Mares and landing numerous jabs at will. Mares eventually fights back and the two start brawling against by the end of the round.

Round 6: Action starts to die down a bit, but both men are still able to throw a lot of punches. Santa Cruz lands a left hook and then a 1-2 later on. Santa Cruz is using his reach advantage to land the jab and then avoid getting hit by Mares’ counter punches.

Round 7: Mares starts to go back to attacking the body, before Santa Cruz returns to creating some distance by landing the jab. Santa Cruz is in control of the fight, landing the 1-2 jab that is disrupting Mares’ rhythm. The round ends with another big exchange between the two.

Round 8: Mares senses the urgency as he believes he is losing the fight in the scorecards and proceeds to throw more power punches. Mares lands a short combination to Santa Cruz’s body. Santa Cruz is now bleeding around his left eye.

Round 9: Santa Cruz continues to dominate with his jab as Mares continues to try and fight in close quarters. Mares is able to get on the inside and throw a number of body punches to the champion as Santa Cruz starts to bleed a lot from his cut.

Round 10: The two boxers fight as if their lives depend on it and Mares starts to connect more of his punches. Even in clinches, they throw punches whenever they get the chance. Mares continues to work the inside and lands the left hook.

Round 11: Santa Cruz lands a solid left hook upstairs during an exchange. Mares then throws a combination while Santa Cruz is on the ropes for a brief moment.

Round 12: The final round starts with both men throwing an endless number of punches as the crowd goes wild. Mares manages to catch Santa Cruz with inside punching and the champion now opts to fight on the inside as well. Mares chases down Santa Cruz and lands several combinations as the champion was on the ropes for a second. The fight ends with a wild exchange.

Official Result: Leo Santa Cruz defeated Abner Mares by unanimous decision (115-113, 116-112, 117-111) to retain the WBA featherweight title

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