LOS ANGELES – Golden Boy Promotions picked the right fighter in Leo Santa Cruz to headline the CBS network’s first live boxing show since 1997.
The undefeated bantamweight beltholder, an aggressive volume puncher with a devastating body attack, promised to deliver a good fight and did so by out-pointing game challenger Alberto Guevara on Saturday afternoon at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena.
Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 knockouts), who defened his IBF title, won by scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 119-109. However, the two lopsided scorecards are not indicative of the competitive nature of the 12-round bout. Part of what makes Santa Cruz a guaranteed action fighter is his lack of defense and somewhat methodical stalking style.
Guevara, a well-schooled 23-year-old boxer from Mazatlan, Mexico, took advantage Santa Cruz’s limitations by sticking and moving in the early rounds. And even when the local favorite came on strong in the middle rounds, Guevara (16-1, 6 KOs) proved to be tough enough to take Santa Cruz’s best shots and gutsy enough to return fire.
Whichever of Golden Boy’s matchmakers chose the crafty college student to face Santa Cruz picked the perfect TV opponent. Guevara’s excellent footwork prevented Santa Cruz from cutting the ring off and his sharp combination punching made for many heated exchanges between the young bantamweights. However, his lack of punching power prevented him from truly threatening Santa Cruz.
Guevara’s pride probably got in the way of any chance of consistently out-boxing the titleholder.
“I said I was going to be right in there and not run around,” Guevara said after the fight. “I was very tough for him. Leo is very good, very tough and very strong. I know I hurt him in the 12thround, but in the fifth round, he hurt me.
“They called us for this fight three weeks ago and I think I did great.”
That he did. Whenever Santa Cruz abdicates the IBF title to campaign in the loaded junior featherweight division, which will be soon, Guevara deserves to be in line to contend for the vacant title.
Santa Cruz apologized to his fans for not scoring a knockout, but acknowledged that he was a bit burnt out after a very busy 2012. Today’s fight was his fifth of 2012, and the third defense of the title he won in June. His last bout, a ninth-round TKO of Victor Zaleta on Nov. 10, was a grueling fight.
“I’m sorry I didn’t give as good a show today (as I wanted to),” Santa Cruz said. “I messed up my right hand in sparring, which is why I fought southpaw for a while. I tried to go to his body more but he was running around too much. My breathing didn’t feel right. I think I’m just a little tired. I was fighting a lot this year and I didn’t give my body a rest.”
He’s earned nice long rest before his first fight of 2013.
On the undercard, Joseph Diaz Jr., one of the most talented members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, made a successful pro debut with a unanimous four-round decision over tough and awkward Vicente Alfaro.
Diaz dropped Alfaro (5-3, 1 KO) with a body shot in the fourth round (which the Minnesota journeyman claimed was a low blow) and won by unanimous scores of 40-35.
The 20-year-old South El Monte native was economical with his punches throughout the bout, exhibiting good technique, accurate body shots and counter-punching ability.
“It felt really good in there,” Diaz said. “I have to get my timing down as a pro but overall it was a great experience fighting in my hometown of L.A. The fans were great motivation. Hopefully, I’ll be back in the ring in January or February.”
Diaz’s 2012 U.S. Olympic teammates Marcus Browne and Errol Spence Jr. won their second pro fights.
Browne (2-0, 2 KOs), a light heavyweight from Staten Island, N.Y., stopped Ritchie Cherry at the end of a wild first round. Cherry (3-6, 1 KO) went down at least six times – after every exchange, often claiming that he had been fouled – before the fight was stopped. Browne was docked a point for rabbit punching, but most of the foul shots he landed was due to Cherry’s crazy reactions to getting hit at all.
Spence (2-0, 2 KOs), a welterweight from Brentwood, N.Y., stopped Richard Andrews (5-3-3, 2 KOs), of Charlottesville, Va., in the third round of their scheduled four rounder.
Photo / Jeff Gross-Gettyimages
Photo / Harry How-Gettyimages/Golden Boy Promotions