Leo Santa Cruz successfully defends featherweight title with win over Kiko Martinez

February 28, 2016

Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME

Anaheim, Calif. -- Undefeated three-division world champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs), successfully defended his WBA World Featherweight title against former world champion Kiko Martinez (35-7, 26 KOs) in five war-like rounds of boxing earlier Saturday evening before 7,780 fans at the Honda Center.

Before the bout, Santa Cruz sensed he had a great performance in him.

“I’ve been in the gym and staying ready for anyone that’s put in front of me," said Santa Cruz prior to the fight.  "I’m going to be 100 percent ready for this fight and I plan to go out there and look great.”

He wasn't kidding.

From the start, the fight lit up the arena with non-stop action.  Santa Cruz took down Martinez twice in the first round, the first knockdown was from an overhand right, and the second from a left-right-left combination.

Santa Cruz looked great, confident, and fierce, bringing everything he had in his attempts to finish off Martinez quickly. Martinez somehow found a way to stay in the round, keeping a constant charge and fighting back to get to the bell.

In the second round, Santa Cruz looked tired, took some deep breaths, and struggled a bit to get back into a good rhythm.   He managed to push through the constant charge of Martinez, and began drilling him with jabs, combinations, and overhand rights.

Martinez caught Santa Cruz by surprise with a legitimate looking flash-knockdown.  However, the referee called it a push.  Martinez kept himself well in the fight and proved to be the constant aggressor, landing several hard punches on Santa Cruz.

“I expect every fighter to come with everything when they get an opportunity against me, they are going to come with everything," said Santa Cruz.  "He said this was going to be his last opportunity, he was going to come with everything.  And I expected that.”

While both fighters looked tired after an exchange of fists, Santa Cruz managed to score solid combination shots to the face and body.  However, Martinez was unfazed and stayed in the fight, taking the onslaught of Santa Cruz’ punches.

“He was like a bull coming forward really strong,” Santa Cruz added. “He has definitely been one of the strongest fighters I’ve been in the ring with yet.

Before the end of the second round, Martinez landed several hard body shots, but Santa Cruz -- with his back on the ropes -- answered with several marvelous combinations of his own to end the round.

The shorter, 5’5” Martinez was the aggressor throughout the fight, as he constantly moved forward at his target in attack mode.  However, the 5'7" Santa Cruz answered the offensive with well-established counter punches.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME

“My dad told me to fight smart, and not stay in there and take his punches," said Santa Cruz.  "He told me to keep moving and boxing him, and that’s what I did.”

Santa Cruz caught Martinez with a solid left that won cheers from the local crowd.  Nevertheless, Martinez’ unfailing persistence and constant charge at Santa Cruz earned him much credit from the fans as well.

“He is a really strong fighter," said Santa Cruz.  "He was able to take my punches.”

During the fifth and final round, Martinez’s ever-present assault seemed to be wearing down Santa Cruz.  That’s when the crowd began to cheer “Leo, Leo, Leo,” in their attempt to wake up the Earthquake inside the young native from the Lincoln Heights community of Los Angeles.

Those cheers must have done their duty and awakened the “Terremoto” out of him because combinations by Santa Cruz drove Martinez to the corner, and then up against the ropes where he pressed on with his blitz full of punches.

Martinez could not counter any of Santa Cruz’ combinations, and soon was in dire trouble.  With a smile, Santa Cruz kept jabbing left and right at the helpless Martinez.  Two minutes and nine seconds into the fifth round, referee Raul Caiz Sr. stopped the fight, giving Santa Cruz his 18th professional career knockout.

“I wanted to please the fans," said Santa Cruz.  "I hurt him inside, and I wanted to finish him really fast.  I tried to finish him off.  And I thought, the fans are going to love it that we are going toe to toe.”

Much credit must be given to Martinez, as it was rightfully earned for going toe-to-toe with Santa Cruz throughout the fight.  Overall, Santa Cruz was the better fighter in terms of athleticism, yet he opted instead to fight a war directly with Martinez instead of safely boxing him.

“I thought, if we were to go to war, and go toe-to-toe, it's what the fans love," said Santa Cruz.  "He was catching me with good punches, and I was getting him with good punches.  I realize that it was not that smart of me to do, but you know, I wanted to please the fans.”

The DSH got in a post-fight question to Santa Cruz, asking him whether he grew tired way too early in the fight.

“In the first round, yeah, I threw more than I had to," responded Santa Cruz.  "I let loose more than what I should have.  But you know, I was really close to finishing him off.  I did lose my air a little, but I quickly recuperated.  I came into the fight with great conditioning . . . I got the second knockdown really fast soon after, and then we did what we had to do.”

The punch statistics reflected that Santa Cruz indeed was the busier and more accurate fighter, as he threw 570 total punches and connected at a 41 percent rate.  Martinez threw just 468 shots, and landed only 16 percent of his punches.

In the words of Martinez, "Leo Santa Cruz . . . was really game tonight.”

When asked if he wanted Carl Frampton next, Santa Cruz replied, “He is a tough fighter, he is on top right now.  He is one of the best.  And he wants to move up in weight, and I am ready for him.  If not him, I am ready for [Gary] Russell . . . Cuellar. I’m ready for all of those guys.”

The Undercard: Ruiz defeats Ceja

In the co-feature, 29-year-old Hugo Ruiz (36-3, 31 KOs) regained his WBC Super Bantamweight World Title with a devastating early knockdown just 51 seconds into his 12-round fight against 23-year-old Julio Ceja (30-2, 27 KOs), in a highly-anticipated rematch of their August fight won by Ceja.

Ruiz improved his record to 5-0 in rematches (with five knockouts) as he delivered a stunning first-round knockout against Ceja, who injured his right ankle on a powerful clean right just seconds into the fight sending him to the canvas.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME

Ceja got up slowly, but was battered with a flurry of punches and knocked out just 51 seconds into the fight, ending the affair.

“I was very prepared to knock him out, but I was prepared to go 12 rounds tonight also if I had to,” said Ruiz, who was teary and emotional following the victory. “I was happy to knock him out in the first round. I’m looking for the best fighters and the best money out there.”

Said Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi: “I’ve never seen a first-round KO that soon in a fight of this much importance.”

Ruiz threw 23 power shots in the brief bout, connecting on 43 percent of them.

Ceja, who beat Ruiz on a fifth-round knockout last August to win the world title, was hurt from the first series of Ruiz punches and never recovered in the intense first round.

Ceja was taken to nearby UC Irvine Hospital and diagnosed with a fractured right ankle.

"I saw that he got hurt with the first punch and I saw his leg wobbling, and so I said, 'Let’s finish,'" Ruiz said. “And I did in that round."

Frampton defeats Quigg

IBF 122-pound world champion Carl Frampton unified the super bantamweight division with a split decision victory over WBA titlist Scott Quigg Saturday on a Showtime Boxing International event that took place in Manchester, England.  Frampton's win could set up a future bout against Leo Santa Cruz.

The long-awaited matchup of unbeaten champions got off to a slow and tactical start, but Belfast native Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) established himself as the aggressor and worked his jab to pocket the early rounds.  Quigg didn’t come alive until after the seventh, when trainer Joe Gallagher warned his charge that he was likely down big on the judges’ scorecards.

Quigg (31-1-2) pounded the body and was the aggressor in rounds eight through 11, but it was too little, too late for the Lancashire, England native.  Frampton won the 12th, and walked away the unified champion by scores of 115-113 for Quigg, but 116-112 twice for Frampton.

“I couldn’t believe it was a split,” Frampton said.  “I don’t know what that lad was watching, but as long as I got my hand raised at the end of the fight, that’s the main thing."

Quigg admitted he should have pushed the action in the early rounds, but still thought he did enough to get the decision.

“I felt comfortable,” Quigg said.  “The judges must have been counting his punches as scoring, but I thought I was blocking them.  I should have started faster.  I felt comfortable and I thought I was winning the rounds because he wasn’t winning clear.  I’m not going to complain.  I want a rematch.  Maybe next time I’ll start a bit earlier.”

By Felix Hernandez
Contributing Writer for TheDailySportsHerald.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...