Leo Santa Cruz successfully makes his third defense of the WBA title
Super WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (35-1, 19KO) made his third defense of his title against Rafael Rivera (26-2-2, 17KO). Rivera is a last minute replacement for Miguel Flores in this match.
While actually a competent ring veteran, he challenged for a world title for the first time. Even though he has two recent losses, most knowledgeable fans know he can provide a stiff test.
To start the fight, Rivera gets right to work throwing sharp jabs and attempting power shots with both hands. The champ seems content to probe and fight defensively as he gets a feel for the challenger.
Santa Cruz comes out fast at the start of round two, fighting in the style that most of us are accustomed to seeing. He keys in on jabbing his way in, attacking vertically and deftly using his footwork to avoid counters.
The one thing that’s really impressive is the champ’s lateral movement, and pivots. Santa Cruz did an excellent job of maintaining his triangle (the ability to pivot or step to either side while negating the opponents punching angle).
As the fight progresses, the resolve of Rivera becomes apparent. He maybe getting out-boxed but, at every opportunity for a counter he throws it and he’s very active. The key to this point, as we’re in the middle rounds, is the technical prowess of Santa Cruz.
The championship rounds would essentially stay the same, with Santa Cruz firmly in control and Rivera doing everything he could to try and gain an edge. Going into round twelve both, fighters would touch gloves and smile as the fight had the feel of a spirited sparring session.
The only downside of the fight was that neither fighter could hurt the other.
The final decision saw all three scorecards turn in scores of 119-109 for the champion. As for what’s next, it seems we’re in line to see Leo Santa Cruz vs Gary Russell in an unification bout.
By: Corey Cunningham