Leo Santa Cruz Retains WBA Featherweight Title After Brutal War Against Abner Mares

It was another slugfest between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares, but once again, it was Santa Cruz who came out on top in a grueling 12-round world title fight. 

Santa Cruz retained his WBA featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over Mares (115-113, 116-112, 117-111) in the main event of the June 9 Showtime Championship Boxing card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The fight was a rematch from their 2015 encounter that saw Santa Cruz win by majority decision in what ended up being a "Fight of the Year" candidate.

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Mares started the bout landing combinations as Santa Cruz tried to take the fight up close, something Mares was hoping to see. Mares' best moments in the fight came when he worked Santa Cruz's body, negating the champion's reach advantage, but those moments were few and far in between.

Many brutal exchanges were had in the bout as both men threw close to 2,000 punches, landing more than 500 of them. Santa Cruz used his long arms to get the upper hand after the third round. Using the 1-2 combination, Santa Cruz won most of the rounds as Mares struggled to land anything meaningful. An accidental clash of heads that cut Santa Cruz late in the fight that was initially ruled by the referee to be caused by a punch thrown by Mares momentarily rallied the challenger, but was unable to do much against the champion.

The 12th and final round featured an extremely exciting back-and-forth exchange at the end as the crowd at the Staples Center got up on its feet to cheer on the fight. After the fight, Mares wasn't too keen on discussing the scorecards but did say he would be up for a third fight against Santa Cruz. 

"It was a 'Fight of the Year' like I told you. It is what it is. I don't want to discuss scores. The judges decided that, and that's it. I'll do it again. Let's do it again. Mares-Santa Cruz 3," Mares said.

It was the second rematch Santa Cruz has had in the last couple of years. After Santa Cruz lost his WBA title to Carl Frampton in 2016, Santa Cruz won back the title in their rematch in 2017 and with the rematch over Mares done with, the WBA titleholder is looking to unify titles. There is WBC champion Gary Russell Jr., who has expressed interest in fighting the winner of Santa Cruz vs. Mares and there is also Frampton, who currently holds the interim WBO title. Frampton went on social media and said he would like a third go at Santa Cruz. 

A third fight between Santa Cruz and Frampton will have to wait until after Frampton's next fight at least. Frampton is slated to headline the August 18 boxing card in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but an opponent has not been named yet. 

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