Leo Santa Cruz successfully defended his WBA “super” featherweight title against Rafael Rivera on Saturday night, winning by unanimous decision at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Santa Cruz vs. Rivera – Fight Recap
As many expected, the fight started out with instant action. Rivera came out strong throwing hard and fast combinations, while Santa Cruz did his best to respond while maintaining his composure. The back-and-forth action would continue into the next few rounds, with Santa Cruz’s superior accuracy, footwork, and body punching being the difference makers.
Fatigue (and most likely frustration) seemed to slowly wear on Rivera as the fight continued into the later rounds. Santa Cruz displayed excellent boxing skills and great conditioning down the stretch as he took almost complete control and never let go. The fight would end in a flurry of punches with both fighters standing toe-to-toe, much to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd.
I scored the bout 119-109 for Leo Santa Cruz, with the sole Rivera round being the first. By the second half of the fight, “El Terremoto”, who threw well over 400 more punches and landed over twice as many as Rivera, had gotten into a groove and Rivera could not keep up. All three judges scored the bout 119-109 in favor of Santa Cruz.
To step in on a few weeks notice and fight one of the best fighters in the world is certainly a tough task. Rafael Rivera fought like a warrior and really put on a show for the fans. But, at the end of the day, he did not fight smart enough to pose much of a threat to the always-ready Leo Santa Cruz. Once Santa Cruz settled in, he was able to counter-punch Rivera seemingly at will and Rivera did not have the power or versatility in his attack to do any real damage.
After the fight, Santa Cruz (36-1-1) stated that he would welcome a fight with any of the other champions at 126 pounds. Santa Cruz also mentioned a third fight with former featherweight titleholder and rival Carl Frampton as a possibility. Santa Cruz lost a close fight to Frampton back in 2016 by majority decision but came back and reclaimed his WBA belt in their 2017 rematch, also by majority decision.
Other Notable Fight Results
- Rob Brant TKO11 Khasan Baysangurov
- Omar Figueroa Jr. UD12 John Molina Jr.
Nothing surprising about the outcome. Rivera is a gifted fighter, but Santa Cruz is as well, and over the years he really has learned to use those gifts effectively. It is going to take a really good fighter (Gary Russell Jr. maybe?) to beat an all-around high-level boxer like Santa Cruz.
The Gary Russell Jr. (29-1) fight is definitely one of the best that can be made in boxing right now. Both men are elite world champions (Russell owns the WBC belt) and both are PBC fighters. It only makes sense that the two should meet sometime in 2019.
Do you think Santa Cruz and Gary Russell will meet this year? Does Santa Cruz beat Russell? Comment below with your opinion.