Leo Santa Cruz shut down Vusi Malinga to win his first world title tonight. (Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime)
Leo Santa Cruz emerged tonight as a bantamweight worth watching, as the 23-year-old Mexican-American dominated 12 rounds against South Africa's Vusi Malinga, winning the vacant IBF bantamweight title. Official scores were 120-108, 120-108, and 119-109. Bad Left Hook scored it 120-108 for Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz (20-0-1, 11 KO) showed remarkable workrate, throwing a metric ton of punches (1,350 total) and punishing the body of Malinga (20-4-1, 12 KO).
[ Live Coverage Continues: Trout vs Rodriguez Next ]
Still it's worth noting that Santa Cruz never had Malinga in any real danger, and it's worth wondering if his power is going to carry up in class. He's a top prospect and now a "world champion," and he fought exceptionally well here, but it was against a guy who hasn't fought since October 2010, too.
That's not to take anything away from the performance, but eventually it was just routine. Malinga had no power and though he was game, was never remotely in the fight. Santa Cruz truly owned the ring in this fight.
It will be very, very interesting to see how he does against a legitimate top bantamweight, though. There's no doubt the kid can fight, but like Canelo Alvarez, he's a baby world champ who has yet to beat a top fighter. And I say this as a big fan of Santa Cruz, too. There are still questions to be answered.
Our live coverage of Four Warned continues here, with Austin Trout facing Delvin Rodriguez next.