On Saturday, June 9, Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs) and Abner Mares (31-2-1 15 KOs) finally come together in a rematch.
In the end, it was the more accurate Santa Cruz who won a unanimous decision by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 to retain his featherweight title.
Mares was effective early in their first fight because he was able to negate Santa Cruz's physical advantages.
In the eleventh round Mares went to the body but got countered by a right uppercut from Santa Cruz. When it looked like one might be gaining the momentum, the other would come up with a great combination or a powerful shot to the head to clean the slate and put them back on even footing. "He left his heart out there". One flurry followed another and, as they did at the end of nearly every round, the pair finished the fight standing chest-to-chest, banging away with everything they had.
Santa Cruz turns 30 years old in August and has been in some hellacious wars since first facing Mares in 2015.
Santa Cruz's long limbs allowed him to parry some of Mares' punches and sneak in thumping shots to the body.
Mares believes he and Santa Cruz have improved since their first fight. In most cases, rematches tend to follow a similar path as the first fight and this matchup is no different.
He added: "It is what it is". I want Gary Russell. I'll do it again. The taller Santa Cruz is using a jab setting up Mares.
With smarts, strength and craftiness, Santa Cruz outfought Abner Mares once again.
A clash of heads saw Santa Cruz develop a gash over his left eye, but he hardly looked the worse for wear. They got into several dynamite exchanges, but Santa Cruz always stayed out of big trouble in what appeared to be a clear decision victory. "I didn't let that distract me". I had cuts before. He kept Mares at arm's length and had Mares fighting going backward.
Mares, a former three-division world champion and a veteran of 10 world championship fights, had famed trainer Robert Garcia in his corner for this fight.
Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares go toe-to-toe. I tried to destroy him.
When asked if he's the No. 1 featherweight in the division, Santa Cruz replied: "Hopefully I am". I'll leave it to the fans to decide. He hopes his next step is a unification bout with WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. for divisional superiority. I want to unify. Ill push around the bigger guys; Im ready for this guy.
Meanwhile, on the undercard, WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo successfully defended his belt for the third time by defeating Austin Trout via a 12-round majority decision. There's an equal argument, however, that Charlo has evolved into the kind of risky, well-rounded fighter who is simply all kinds of wrong for the light-punching Trout at this stage of his career. Two judges scored it 118-108 and 115-111 in favor of Charlo, and third scored it 113-113. "Trout fought to survive", said Charlo. "I take my hat off to him".
Charlo recorded two knockdowns in the bout. "Trout wasn't going down like that". It was the sixth time Trout had been down in his career.
There's an argument to be made that Trout, 32, is the best opponent on paper that Charlo has yet to face. My brother just told me, Do what you do. "That's what I love about training camp because it makes me work even harder". But I'm not done yet. "And I'm still here".
Round 2: Mares continues to attack the body and is landing his right hand well. "If Hurd stands in front of me I will be the unified champion". He's a champion and the man to beat. The fight was not particularly thrilling, not at all to the taste of the Southern California fans who prefer the all-action Mexican style like the main event. I've grown as a fighter.
Easter recently changed trainers and is now working with Kevin Cunningham.
In the first round both fighters opened up on one another.
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