Leo Santa Cruz had no trouble dealing with a new opponent for his first featherweight title defense of 2019.
Santa Cruz retained the WBA "Super" featherweight title with a wide unanimous decision victory over Rafael Rivera (119-109, 119-109, 119-109). The fight headlined a Premier Boxing Champions card televised on Fox at the Microsoft Theater.
The fight was originally going to feature Miguel Flores in the main event instead of Rivera, but Flores went down with an injury in January, causing the change in opponent.
Rivera was willing to trade with Santa Cruz from the start of the fight, landing nearly as much as the champion in the first couple of rounds. Santa Cruz landed the uppercut well and became the aggressor starting in round two. Rivera did take everything Santa Cruz threw at him, but didn't keep up with Santa Cruz's fervent pace.
The second half of the fight featured a lot of exchanges with Rivera still able to keep up with Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz would throw a little more than 100 punches per round, never tiring out throughout the fight, but not able to take out his opponent. When it was all said and done, Santa Cruz outlanded Rivera 334-151 for the entire fight.
This was Santa Cruz's third title defense since reclaiming the belt back in 2017 when he defeated Carl Frampton in a rematch of their 2016 slugfest. After the fight, Santa Cruz said he plans to fight three times with his second fight possibly taking place either in June or July, hopefully in a title unification against any of the other world champions at 126 pounds.