After 12 rounds of brisk action, the judges handed out a majority decision win to Santa Cruz; the scorecards reading 117-111 for Santa Cruz; a 114-114 draw from the blind judge; and 117-111 for Santa Cruz.
Mares opened the fight rushing Cruz and trying to draw the undefeated WBC world junior featherweight champ into an inside-style brawl. But by the third round, Santa Cruz had established his jab and his distance, and was able to settle the pace into a boxing match punctuated by high-action exchanges that ultimately worked to his advantage.
Mares tailed Santa Cruz throughout the fight, pressing him against the ropes, landing well to the body, and disrupting his rhythm. But Santa Cruz’s higher output and cleaner punching was, barring Max DeLuca’s bizarre 114-114 card, enough for a convincing win.
“[Mares] came straight out, he wanted to knock me out like I thought” Santa Cruz said after the fight. “But we figured him out and we got the win.”
Punch stats had Santa Cruz landing 373 of a whopping 1,057 punches thrown; Mares landed 227 out of an also impressive 980 thrown.
“It was a close fight,” Abner said. “But I honestly thought I won the fight. It was a great fight, but I thought I pulled it off…Initially my plan was to box [Santa Cruz], but I started out really hard. I felt good but my corner told me not to, they told me to back off, and to box. So I did just that.”
Check out some action from the bout:
Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) entered Saturday’s anticipated encounter coming off a decision win over Jose Cayetano in May and an eighth-round TKO victory over Jose Cayetano in January.
Having fought mostly mediocre-level past opposition before Saturday, the 27-year-old faced biggest challenge yet in Abner Mares, and Saturday’s win will go a long way to cement his star status in the sport.
Making his second appearance under the PBC banner on Saturday, Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) had last been in action outpointing Arturo Reyes in March. Prior to the Reyes encounter, 29-year-old Mares scored back-to-back victories over Jose Ramirez and Jonathan Oquendo since being defeated for the only other time as a pro by Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013.
On the co-feature, Julio Ceja (30-1, 27 KOs) stopped Hugo Ruiz (35-3, 31 KOs) in the fifth round to lift the interim WBC World super bantamweight title.
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