Mares, Santa Cruz, Love cap wins
Mares stops De Leon; Santa Cruz destroys Munoz; Love wins controversial decision over Rosado
Ringside by Chris Cozzone
Miguel Maravilla also contributed to this report
Photos by Mary Ann Owen/ BoxinginLasVegas.com
In what should cement him a high pound-for-pound ranking, and the man to beat in the 120s, three-division world champ Abner Mares, 26-0-1, 14 Kos, moved up to 126 to dethrone WBC Featherweight Champ Daniel Ponce De Leon, 44-5, 35 Kos. Weathering the champ's battering ram of a left hand, Mares unraveled his sparmate and friend, dropping him not once but twice en route to a knockout win in round nine.
With De Leon trying to measure his lefts, Mares proved quicker, busier. Evading a brawl and De Leon's roughhouse tactics, Mares used his quicker hand speed and movement. At the end of the second, he silenced the crowd by throwing a hook and a right that sent De Leon to the canvas. The Chihuahuan beat the count on shaky legs, and showed visible relief when the bell rang shortly after.
In the third, it was Mares pressuring, his faster hands keeping Ponce going back. De Leon winged several lefts and he had better success as the round wore on, driving back the smaller Mares. In the fourth, however, Mares took over, sneaking in overhand rights. He continued to outbox through the fifth, but kept his distance in the sixth after a big left by De Leon found its mark.
Trying to turn the fight around, De Leon waded in, only to catch another big right. An unintentional low blow had Mares momentarily down in the seventh, which was edged by De Leon. In the eighth, Ponce inflicted wear and tear on Mares, who fought back in spots.
It looked like the fight was turning around when, in the ninth, a tremendous right dropped De Leon. Beating the count but in hazardous shape, De Leon sought to fight back but Mares moved in for the kill, landing as many as seven big right hands until ref Jay Nady had seen enough, separating the two and stopping the fight at 2:20.
De Leon complained of a premature stoppage – the crowd agreed.
"They shouldn't have stopped the fight," said De Leon. "I was still throwing. He does have a strong punch, though. I was surprised by his speed."
Mares said he was relieved at the stoppage.
"I didn't want to hurt him any more," he said. "He's my friend and when I dropped him the second time, I was hoping he'd stay down.
"I knew he had a big left but it was push-push-push. I changed it up and he was confused. I'll fight anyone they get for me, next."
Santa Cruz dominates Munoz
Moving up to junior featherweight for a minor belt, Leo Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14 Kos) destroyed former two-time world champion Alexander Munoz (36-5, 28 Kos) in round five.
Though Munoz proved busier, at least at first, his small stature made him an unlikely threat to the fast-rising Santa Cruz. In fact, the first big right that landed by Santa Cruz wobbled Munoz.
Big body shots and another right that snapped back Munoz's mug further damaged the former champ. Unwilling to back down, Munoz continued to move forward – and continued to eat leather. A big right uppercut rocked Munoz to the ropes in the third. Santa Cruz followed up with a battering combination until Munoz dropped face forward to the canvas. Beating the count and somewhat saved by the bell, Munoz fought the wobbling in his legs as he walked to his corner.
It was a futile attempt to turn the tide in the fourth, but Munoz refused to quit. Looking years older with every combination that splattered his ribs and head, Munoz somehow made it through the round but looked ready to drop.
In the fifth, he did just that. Santa Cruz closed the show, battering Munoz against the ropes. Munoz draped himself around Santa Cruz but a change of angles opened up enough space for the finishing blows to land. Munoz dropped, just as his corner rushed into the ring, waving the white towel. Ref Vic Drakulich pulled the plug at 1:05.
"I felt strong and confident and I'll fight whoever the fans want me to fight," Santa Cruz proclaimed.
Unable to compete at 122, Munoz said he would be returning to bantamweight.
No, Love Lost
In the opening PPV telecast, unbeaten middleweight J'Leon Love, 16-0, 8 Kos, somehow nabbed a ten-round split decision over Gabriel "King" Rosado, 21-7, 13 Kos, for the vacant NABF middleweight title.
Cornered by Roger Mayweather, the Money Team fighter had to overcome having to lose a pound-and-a-half last minute the day before at the weigh-in. He also had to weather Rosado's superior punching power and aggression.
Love won a war of jabs in the first, but Rosado came back in the second, rocking Love's head back with a big right. Again, in the third, Rosado's right found its mark again, edging him the round by way of heavier blows. Love, meanwhile, sought to hug and move, smother and bother Rosado.
In the fourth, Love circled the ring as Rosado used his jab to set up his right. With Rosado stalking, Love danced, moving in and out. Love began to smother Rosado's shots until, in the final ten seconds of the sixth, a big right to the chin sent him crashing down against the ropes. Love beat the count and the bell saved him from further punishment.
Love kept away from Rosado in the seventh, though he engaged in the eighth, actually hurting Rosado for the first time. Back in the game, Love fought at range in the ninth, landing big rights. The fight went back and forth until a big chopping right, followed by an uppercut, staggered Love. Hugging to save himself, Love weathered the remainder of the round while Rosado sought to pour it on.
In the final round, Rosado upped his pressure, popping back Love's head with a big uppercut. Consecutive rights crashed down on Love though the Mayweather fighter did not relent but fought back as the bell clanged.
Though it was an apparent victory for Rosado, the judges begged to differ, scoring it 95-94 for Rosado (Judge Trowbridge), 95-94 for Love (Judge Moretti) and an unfathomable 97-92 for Love (Judge Santos).
With the booing lasting several minutes, Rosado told the press, "No hard feelings for J, but everyone knows who won this fight."
Love conceded to the "wisdom" of the judges, saying, "I'm a fighter but it's up to the judges. It is what it is."
Gavril stops Yong
In a high-action sixer at supermiddleweight, Las Vegas' Ronald Gavril (4-0, 1 Ko) TKO'd Phoenix's Roberto Yong (5-7-2, 4 Kos). Yong was outgunned but stayed in the fight until hard body shots, applied from the second to third, softened him up for the finish. Trapping Yong against the ropes, Gavril battered him downstairs, than up, prompting ref Russ Mora to call it off at 2:12 of the third.
Arias edges Livingston
In a six-round supermiddleweight bout, Mayweather fighter Luis "Cuba" Arias (5-0, 3 Kos) had a harder-than-expected win over gutsy DonYil Livingston (8-3-1, 4 Kos), winning by way of majority decision.
Clearly outsized, Livingston had his worst moments in the first two rounds, with Arias timing right hand shots and hooking him to the liver. In the third, a big right snapped Livingston's head back but he came back, pointing out serious defense flaws in Arias with a pressured attack that included his best punch of the night – a big right to Arias' mug.
Round four saw Arias plowing into Livingston, but unable to land with much precision, the fight was fairly close in the last three rounds. At the end of six, the scorecards read 57-57, 58-55 and 58-56, giving Arias the win.
Badou Jacks up Gbenga
In an eight-round light heavyweight bout, Badou Jack (14-0, 10 Kos) battered away at chinny Michael Gbenga (13-8, 13 Kos), staggering him several times before finishing him off at 2:26 of round three with a TKO.
Jack wobbled Gbenga in the final moments of the first, then proceeded to plaster him with can't-miss rights through the second. Adding uppercuts to his arsenal, Jack jacked Gbenga up through the third, taking him out with a clear belly shot. Gbenga complained to ref Russell Mora, who rightfully insisted on a clean shot. Mora called the fight off when Gbenga winced long and hard enough to warrant the stoppage.
Bellows blows through Garretson
In the four-round curtain raiser, at super middleweight, Las Vegas' Lanell Bellows (4-0-1, 4 Kos) blew through outgunned Matthew Garretson (2-1, 1 Ko) through three-plus rounds. Ignoring Garretson's flimsy southpaw jab, Bellows bombarded his foe with big body shots and several uppers in the first. Garretson had minor success in the second, but his legs went to water again in the second half of the round. In the third, Bellows had Garretson wincing and hanging on. With his body softened up to crumble and his head repeatedly popped back like a Pez dispenser, Garretson lasted but 32 seconds into the fourth round when ref Kenny Bayless stopped the slaughter.