Leo Santa Cruz had moved beyond it, this Abner Mares rematch Saturday on Showtime. Mares had done almost nothing to earn the do-over, while Santa Cruz had beaten a better fighter in Carl Frampton. You know what, though? The second time around was arguably better than the first, which ended with the same victor: Santa Cruz.
There are few fights with this much action and such little pain. Neither junior lightweight hits terribly hard. They just hit a lot.
The dynamic was thus: Santa Cruz was better at range, Mares was better up close. Mares often landed the harder punches, Santa Cruz the more frequent. Mares favored the body, Santa Cruz the head.
Just when it looked like it might get into a rhythm, with one man’s preferred approach winning out, the other would reestablish himself or take advantage of the other’s needless bloodlust. Not to be ungrateful about the last bit.
The Santa Cruz who looked “beyond” Mares wasn’t around. He showed some ring rust for a fighter who benefits from being in the ring often and lately hasn’t been. Mares’ slippage might have been overrated, too.
The 12th round was the fight in a microcosm: Two guys throwing a gazillion punches and barely doing damage. The only real sign of damage came via a cut over Santa Cruz’s left eye, delivered not by a legal blow but a head butt.
The judges scored it 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111. TQBR scored it 115-113. The 117-111 scorecard seemed wide, but it was a tough bout to score, and if anyone won the closer rounds, it was the busier man, Santa Cruz.
So, do we get a trilogy next or Gary Russell for Santa Cruz? The hyper-athletic Russell looks like he’d fuck up this version of Santa Cruz, who not that long ago went from a one dimensional, volume punching boxer to a complete product. That makes a trilogy fight the vote here. Of course, nothing says they can’t do it again after Santa Cruz vs Russell.
On the undercard, Jermell Charlo outclassed an aging Austin Trout, once a 154-pound elite and now more of a gatekeeper. Charlo was too young, too athletic and hit too hard — he scored two knockdowns — for Trout, who had some competitive rounds.
Nothing explains judge Fernando Villarreal scoring this one a draw. Well, maybe the usual reasons for crappy scorecards, like stupidity, lack of skill, whatever.
Charlo vs Jarret Hurd next would be spectacular. Charlo probably loaded up too much, as the Showtime team observed, but he’s the better boxer. Hurd is the harder hitter. Both are young and may have upside they haven’t yet achieved, but now is the right time for this one.
(Image: Leo Santa Cruz connects on Abner Mares; via)