International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz defended his title via unanimous decision (116-112, 118-110, 119-109) against challenger Alberto Guevara at the Los Angeles Sports Arena Saturday afternoon.
The championship fight heralded the return of boxing to CBS Sports, which has not shown the sweet science in more than 15 years. And by choosing Leo Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 KOs) to headline the event, the organizers have shown that they know their business well, since the Mexican fighter has a crowd-pleasing style and the reputation of being an all-action fighter.
Leo Santa Cruz is a volume puncher and a high-octane fighter who is always exciting to watch, and pitting him against Alberto Guevara (16-1, 6 KOs), the erstwhile undefeated challenger who made his U.S. debut in this fight, proved to be a boxing coup.
There was no feeling-out process as both fighters immediately went at each other right from the opening bell. Alberto Guevara took the fight to Leo Santa Cruz, surprising the crowd. Leo Santa Cruz ended the first round with a bloodied nose.
The next two rounds proved that Alberto Guevara came to fight as he engaged Leo Santa Cruz in a chess match; countering well, never staying too long in the pocket and moving out of harm's way. Leo Santa Cruz, who could only cover and counter, found himself being outpunched and outlanded by the very game challenger.
The same script was followed in rounds 3 and 4 as Alberto Guevara continued to move, circling and taking potshots at Leo Santa Cruz. The hit-and-run tactics were running smoothly for Alberto Guevara, until Leo Santa Cruz landed a left straight down the middle to halt his opponent's momentum. The action picked up thereafter as Leo Santa Cruz decided to push his attack to Alberto Guevara, obliging the champion in a tit-for-tat battle.
Leo Santa Cruz began to get the better of Alberto Guevara by landing the harder and cleaner punches during the furious exchanges. Leo Santa Cruz also began to put pressure on his opponent's defense, even though Alberto Guevara would continue to give him angles and proved elusive to hit with solid punches.
Still, Leo Santa Cruz persevered by constantly coming forward, firing on all cylinders as he waged battle against an equally determined opponent. Alberto Guevara was also quick to the draw and able to hold his fort against Leo Santa Cruz's determined assault.
The seventh round was highlighted by furious exchanges in the pocket: Santa Cruz landing his shots, hurting Guevara in the process. The power and volume of Leo Santa Cruz's punches overwhelmed the resistance being put up by the brave and durable Alberto Guevara.
In the 8th round, Leo Santa Cruz continued a double-fisted assault that began slowing down Alberto Guevara. Fatigue and wear-and-tear began to take their toll on the challenger as Leo Santa Cruz stepped up his onslaught, unloading his arsenal, and putting the hurt on Alberto Guevara who continuously took them.
Despite being outpunched, Alberto Guevara showed his big heart as he continued to return fire. But Alberto Guevara was wilting under constant pressure from Leo Santa Cruz's bombs, and the body shots that the champion had invested earlier were now taking their toll on his nemesis.
The 10th round saw Leo Santa Cruz turning to southpaw stance as he continued to impose his will on Alberto Guevara, who, although slowing down, was still fighting back and resisting Santa Cruz's advance.
The 11th round saw Leo Santa Cruz mount an spirited attack, but Alberto Guevara took everything that his opponent was giving him, while returning the favor at every chance and opportunity. But the difference in power and accuracy between the two protagonists was telling. Leo Santa Cruz was undeniably the harder puncher and dominant fighter between the two.
The last round was characterized by torrid back-and-forth action at the center of the ring. Both fighters gave the fight their all and then some.
Despite the constant pressure and being outgunned, Alberto Guevara never wavered in this fight. Alberto Guevara was game until the very end, but Leo Santa Cruz would not be denied in his third successful defense of the title that he took from South Africa's Vusi Malinga earlier this year.
Leo Santa Cruz outlanded Alberto Guevara in total punches 291/989 (29%) to 158/793 (20%). The champion also eclipsed the challenger in jabs (81/429 19% to 46/404 11%) as well as in power punches (210/560 38% to 112/389 29%).
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