Tonight at 10:00 pm on ESPN, Premier Boxing Champions returns with what may be its most intriguing main event to date, as Leo Santa Cruz takes on former three-division titleholder Abner Mares in a featherweight clash from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KO) is looking to make a statement against a well-known, well-regarded opponent after catching serious criticism for his last three opponents, which was largely deserved, as he made a couple of lousy title defenses at 122 pounds, with his last fight at least being a featherweight trial run. Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO) is thought by some to be past his peak, though, after years of fighting regularly against some of the best opponents he could from the 118 and 122 pound divisions. The proof will be in the pudding tonight on both sides.
In a solid co-feature, Hugo Ruiz (35-2, 31 KO) will face Julio Ceja (29-1, 26 KO) in a significant super bantamweight bout.
Connor Ruebusch will be here with the live call this evening. Join us at BLH!
Leo Santa Cruz defeats Abner Mares by Majority Decision (117-111, 114-114, 117-111)
Julio Cesar Ceja defeats Hugo Ruiz by TKO (referee stoppage) at 2:34 of Round 5
Alejandro Luna defeats Sergio Lopez by TKO (referee stoppage) at 0:34 of Round 4
ROUND BY ROUND
LEO SANTA CRUZ vs ABNER MARES
Round 1: Mares swarms out of the corner, grabs Santa Cruz with an underhook and swings away with his free hand. He's crowding Santa Cruz, and that seems like a very smart idea. Santa Cruz isn't shy to throw back. Jack Reiss warns Mares about hitting to the back of the head. Santa Cruz with a nice counter hook, but Mares charges forward and gets in with a short right hand. Shoves Santa Cruz into the ropes, attacking the body viciously and taking away Santa Cruz's reach, keeping him from pressuring as he usually likes to do. Finally Mares lets up for a moment, and Santa Cruz comes forward behind the jab. Mares ties him up again, and bulls Santa Cruz into the ropes. Neither man landing much now. Santa Cruz throwing nice counter combinations now as the clapper sounds, and Mares barely misses with a chopping right at the bell. 10-9 Mares
Round 2: Santa Cruz is the first to throw this time, slinging out a long 1-2. Mares slips his second attack and closes the distance once again. Santa Cruz either needs to tie him up or step back and counter, and he's struggling to do so as of right now. Now Santa Cruz squirts out away from the ropes and tries for a sneaky uppercut. He's got Mares' attention and he's jabbing with him at range now, stepping forward. Mares slips a right hand and jumps into the clinch again. And again, landing two punches this time. Santa Cruz is slowing the pace now, though, jabbing and stalking. He's reluctant to throw the right hand, and there's why: Mares vaults into the clinch and bangs away to the body. Santa Cruz gets physical with Mares now, spinning him into the ropes and landing a nice uppercut. Good left hook from Santa Cruz just before the bell. 10-9 Mares, 20-18
Round 3: Santa Cruz leads with a left hook that clips Mares on the chin. Double jab to set up the right hand now, but Mares parries it. This is much more Santa Cruz's speed, and he successfully pivots away when Mares jumps forward again. Hard uppercut from Santa Cruz, but Mares just barges right through it, swinging downstairs as Santa Cruz backs up. Not much landing, but he's putting on tons of pressure at every opportunity. Both men boxing now, taking a bit of a breather. Santa Cruz has the better of the jabbing, using a pawing left reminiscent of Tommy Hearns, but Mares is slipping and feinting, looking for counter punches. Clash of heads as both men try to outslug each other, and Mares has a small cut. Santa Cruz too, evidently. Both men throwing bombs as the clacker sounds, with Mares landing thudding blows to the body and Santa Cruz sneaking in punches upstairs. Close round. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 29-28 Mares
Round 4: Once again Santa Cruz attacks first, double jabbing and following with an uppercut to the stomach. He feints Mares there, following his jab with an awkward half-beat step and then landing the long right hand over the top as Mares tries to hook. Mares' corner were asking him to box, but he doesn't look so comfortable at this range with the superior jabber. Another wild exchange at the ropes, this time with Santa Cruz in open space; neither man landing much. Santa Cruz is forcing the exchanges now, rather than accepting them. Mares is throwing in bursts just like before, but Santa Cruz is doing a nice job of pulling back, measuring with his jab and only throwing when he feels an opening. Mares circling a lot, but struggling to do much with it. Santa Cruz stings him with a right hand off the pivot just before the bell. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 38-38
Round 5: Santa Cruz forces his way in and lands a hook to the body. Mares is throwing back, but he's struggling to close the distance now, and getting blocked more often than not when he goes to the body himself. Clean 1-2 from Santa Cruz, and Mares is swinging back. Looks like Mares hit him low--no surprise there. Jack Reiss warns him. Santa Cruz is inaccurate when they exchange combos, but he's blocking relatively well, and scoring the cleaner punches at range. Two good hooks to the body from Santa Cruz, and a response from Mares. Mares jabs now, pushing Santa Cruz back. Santa Cruz answers with a clipping right hand as Mares pulls back. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 48-47
Round 6: Mares charges inside early, but Santa Cruz is starting to have his way there, landing a few lefts to the body down the center of Mares' guard. He keeps looking for the long right hand on the breaks. Mares bulls in again, head under Santa Cruz's chin. He lands some cuffing blows to the body, and Leo ties him up. Santa Cruz spinning Mares in the clinch now, shooting lefts down the center off of his pivots. One to the body, and there's one to the chin. Santa Cruz tries a left hook off the jab, with no luck. Mares boxing off the back foot, looking for openings. He comes in behind a combination but Santa Cruz pulls back and evades. Mares lands a clipping right hand and a light hook after. Mares ends the round in the corner with Santa Cruz's jab in his face. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 58-56
Round 7: Mares is back in the clinch, and Santa Cruz looks to step back and sneak in a few Gene Tunney-esque right hand counters behind Mares' ear. Jack Reiss warns them not to wrestle, and now Santa Cruz is back in his comfort zone, with Mares circling the ropes. Santa Cruz ends another exchange with a solid left hook as Mares steps back undefended. Mares with a decent lead right. Santa Cruz nullifies Mares' next clinch attempt, tying up the shorter man and looking for angles. Another wild exchange, with neither man landing cleanly. Mares counters Santa Cruz in yet another exchange with a good right hand. Santa Cruz responds with one of his own, and a hard left hook to close the round. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 68-65
Round 8: Santa Cruz meets another Mares rush well, using his height to land uppercuts as Mares swings hooks around his elbows. He spins Mares and drives his forehead into the shorter man's face. Santa Cruz is looking for the uppercut off the jab again, hoping to catch Mares ducking into the clinches. Vicious lead right from Santa Cruz, but Mares flails back at him all the same. Good short overhand right from Mares as he forces Santa Cruz back to the ropes. Not Santa Cruz has Mares in trouble though. Mares ducks into an uppercut and eats a hard left hook. Jack Reiss breaks them and Mares throws a few tentative punches to end the round. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 78-74
Round 9: Santa Cruz scores with a backstepping left hook, and Mares closes to land a few punches to the body. Mares charging forward again, and LSC meets him with a left uppercut followed by a left hook to the jaw. Santa Cruz landing jabs, but Mares lunges in with a left to the body. Mares barely misses with a lead right and eats a jab over the top. Santa Cruz steps in with a right of his own, misses, but follows with a nasty left hook on the chin. Mares feints Santa Cruz to the ropes, but fails to capitalize. They swing away to end the round, with Mares slapping a right hand home and Santa Cruz pulling back to land a few lefts. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 88-83
Round 10: Apparently Mares is receiving contradictory instructions from his corner, and that explains what we're seeing here. He comes out aggressively to start this round, but soon Santa Cruz has him backing up and looking to counter. Meanwhile Santa Cruz has adjusted to the fight in front of him, and he's landing sharp jabs and left hooks as Mares drifts aimlessly around the ring. Mares charges in with a combo; Santa Cruz slips nicely and pivots away. Santa Cruz jabs away, goads Mares into another attack, and counters him with the left hook when he lunges forward. Mares almost traps Santa Cruz at the ropes, but he slides out to the side and lands a good short right off the separation. Mares leaps in again, throwing away and swinging his head, but Santa Cruz blocks almost everything and even gets in a counter left before the bell. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 98-92
Round 11: Measured start to this round, but it's not long before Mares jumps into the clinch. Nothing landing in that tie-up. Jack Reiss breaks them up, and this time Mares lands a hard left hook to the beltline. Santa Cruz doesn't like it, and he forces Mares back with a triple jab. Short right hand as Mares steps in, and another. Mares lands to the body with two decent punches. Santa Cruz is trying to escape the clinches, and Mares is sticking to him like glue; too close to land anything of consequence. Santa Cruz meets the next clinch with some head pressure and throws to the body himself. Santa Cruz feints Mares and walks him into a 3-2 combination. Mares clubs him with a wild right hand over the top, but Santa Cruz answers with a clean uppercut. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 108-101
Round 12: Mares closes early, landing his left to the body, but smothering himself after. Santa Cruz is the one pulling back and creating space to land punches, with Mares flailing after him. Mares coming in head down, eating cuffing punches from Santa Cruz and landing little of his own. Mares lands a decent counter right over Santa Cruz's jab, but Santa Cruz clips him with a right in response. Solid counter uppercut from Santa Cruz, who is using some great angles as he steps back from Mares' advances. Santa Cruz hangs back now, waiting for Mares to come in; when he does, he nails him with three counter punches. Mares is back inside soon after, though. Jack Reiss separates before he can get anything done. Mares with a left to the body, but he steps back and Santa Cruz follows him with a long right hand. They end the fight swinging recklessly away, as the crowd cheers them on. 10-9 Santa Cruz, 118-110
SERGIO LOPEZ vs ALEJANDRO LUNA
Round 1: Luna leading with his jab and attacking with a left hook to the body. Lopez seems a little open at range, but he's gotten in with a handful of body shots already. Luna attacks low to high, following a right hand to the body with a left hook upstairs, both landing. Lopez isn't fazed, though, and he sneaks in a few chopping right hands upstairs. Luna goes for a left hook but meets Lopez's glove while Lopez gets in with a hook of his own. Sharp jab from Luna, and a trio of body shots at the bell. 10-9 Luna
Round 2: Luna meets Lopez's early aggression with a good 3-2 combination. Luna sneaks in a solid jab, and then a lead right. Lopez charges in and swings away, not finding much purchase. Pretty ugly fight so far, with both men trying simply to overwhelm each other on the inside. Not much art there. Lopez snags a waistlock and cheekily takes Luna's back in the clinch. Luna jabbing, looking for the big right hand, but not finding it so far. Now Luna steps in and eats a solid left hook from Lopez. Luna twice attacks the liver. 10-9 Luna, 20-18
Round 3: Luna seems determined to put Lopez away, as he comes out aggressively himself at the start of this frame. Nice right hand to the body as Lopez circles out of the corner. Lopez back to center ring now, and he tries for a few body shots of his own that Luna blocks. Short right from Luna, and Lopez is on wobbly legs for a moment. Luna senses his opening and charges in, but Lopez defends well, tying him up and recovering his balance. Lopez looks recovered now, but Luna's stabbing away with his jab, looking to set up power punches while Lopez tries to counter. Thudding right hand from Luna, but he can't follow up as Lopez smartly ties him up and gets back to center ring after the break. Lopez is fighting intelligently, but his movements are decidedly robotic now. 10-8 Luna, 30-26
Round 4: Luna storms out of the gates, immediately backing Lopez into the ropes. he's landing heavy shots now, and Lopez desperately covers up and throws back. He's out on his feet, and Luna swings away to force the referee stoppage. Good work from the young prospect.
HUGO RUIZ vs JULIO CESAR CEJA
Round 1: Ceja looks for a right hand over the top early and gets blocked. He's probing with the jab, and Ruiz reminds him not to get lazy with it, shooting a right hand over the top. Ruiz snaps a lead left hook for the second time, missing by inches. Ceja hunts the body, but Ruiz catches his left hook on a smartly placed elbow. So far Ruiz is the one controlling the distance, with Ceja moving forward and trying to take it away. Ruiz looks for that left hook again and gets clipped with a counter left. Stops Ceja's forward momentum with a solid uppercut. Quick combination of punches off a triple jab from Ruiz just before the end of the round. 10-9 Ruiz
Round 2: Ruiz once again looking to counter, stepping back and pivoting as Ceja moves forward throwing looping punches. Beautiful 1-2 from Ruiz, and he circles away smoothly. Ceja's looking for body shots again, and he finally gets in with a left hook downstairs. He's not setting up his entries very well, though, and Ruiz seems to be getting his timing. Ruiz stings Ceja with the jab, first to the pit of the stomach and then to the chin. 10-9 Ruiz, 20-18
Round 3: Ceja comes out aggressively, and right away manages to close the distance. But Ruiz is throwing right back, sneaks in a left hook and a decent chopping right hand. Now he's back at Ruiz's range, and Ruiz is turning him and stabbing away with that long jab. Ruiz goes for the counter uppercut again, misses, and follows up with a left hook that clips Ceja on the chin. Ceja gets in with a left hook downstairs, and then to the head. Now Ruiz answers to the body, landing a hook of his own before pivoting away from the ropes. Ceja with another left downstairs, and Ruiz counters him with a hook upstairs. BOOM! Ruiz clips Ceja with a huge left hook coming in, and he's down! Ruiz is stalking now, using that jab to set up sharp combinations. Ceja stays tight and survives the round. 10-8 Ruiz, 30-26
Round 4: Once again Ceja starts the round aggressively, not fearing the kind of counters that nearly put him away in the previous round. Ruiz is back to his jab, and he's keeping Ceja at arm's length, literally. Ceja comes in a little off-balance, and Ruiz counters him once again, this time with a straight right that sets Ceja back on his heels. Ceja comes in with another lead right, and Ruiz hits him with the exact hook that put him down last round. Ceja stays on his feet this time, and ends the round moving forward, landing a series of light punches before the bell. 10-9 Ruiz, 40-35
Round 5: No surprise, Ceja starts the round aggressively. He's still not feinting or jabbing his way in, but now he seems to be waiting for counters of his own, forcing Ruiz to make the first move. Ruiz is obliging, but mostly with backward stepping jabs that Ceja is struggling to punish. Ruiz in the corner now, and he smartly steps forward into a clinch. Back at range, Ceja lands a hard left hook to the ribs. And he smashes Ruiz with a thunderous left hook on the point of the chin! Both men traded left hooks, and Ruiz went down hard! That was a devastating knockdown, back of the head to the floor. Ceja has Ruiz at the ropes and he's going to town, Ruiz swinging back for his life. He struggles for a clinch, can't hold on, and goes down again. It's over! Wow!