Santa Cruz and Mares Win Big, Setting Up Another Showdown

Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares are former sparring partners who engaged in one of the best fights in recent years, a lusty 12-round battle at LA’s Staples Center in August of 2015 that was decided in favor of Santa Cruz by a majority decision. That fight begged for a rematch and it will likely materialize in March of next year. The SoCal rivals won their respective bouts as expected on Saturday at the StubHub, keeping the skids well greased.

On paper, LA’s Abner Mares had the harder row to hoe. His opponent, Guadalajara’s Andres Gutierrez, was making only his third start outside Mexico, but he had notched some good wins while building a 35-1-1 record. Early on, however, it became obvious that Mares had a big edge in the power department. He won every round until the fight was stopped in the tenth frame owing to a nasty cut on Gutierrez’s left eyelid. The cut, which bled intermittently from the second round on, ultimately turned the left side of his Gutierrez’s face into a mask of crimson.

Referee Jack Reiss ruled that the cut was the result of a clean punch but that it had been worsened by errant elbows and so forth. That sent the bout to the scorecards, denying Mares an official TKO. With the win, Mares retained his WBA world featherweight title and advanced his record to 30-2-1 (15).

Leo Santa Cruz (pictured with his team moments before his ring walk) was matched against Chris Avalos. The match was very much a carbon of the Mares-Gutierrez match, albeit even more lopsided and two rounds shorter. Akin to Gutierrez, the spunky Avalos ate a lot of leather while rarely taking a backward step and was never off his feet.

The end came at 1:34 of round eight when the ref saved Avalos from further punishment after Santa Cruz rocked him with a barrage of punches. The popular Santa Cruz, a buzzsaw, improved to 32-1-1 (18) while retaining the “super” version of his WBA strap. Avalos (27-6) has now lost four of his last six, all inside the distance.

In the opening bout of the telecast, previously undefeated Eddie Ramirez (17-0 going in) took a big jump up in class and found himself in too deep against Tijuana-based Antonio DeMarco who dismissed him at the 2:00 mark of the opening round. The stoppage seemed a tad premature, but there was a big class difference between DeMarco, a former world lightweight titlist, and Ramirez who hadn’t been adequately schooled to meet a man of his stature.

The show was a joint venture between Ringstar Sports Richard Schaefer, the former Golden Boy Promotions CEO, and Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.

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