Leo Santa Cruz wins big, keeps title

Santa Cruz/Mijares

LAS VEGAS -- When junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz was a young fighter on the way up several years ago, one of the champions he looked up to was Cristian Mijares.

Santa Cruz saw him win junior bantamweight title fights against Jorge Arce in 2007 and Jose Navarro in 2008 -- and Santa Cruz had sparred with Navarro to help him get ready for the fight.

Faced with defending his title against Mijares, Santa Cruz showed no mercy, battering him in a near shutout decision on Saturday night on the Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo undercard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The judges had it 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109. ESPN.com also had it for Santa Cruz by shutout, 120-108.

"Mijares is a great boxer," Santa Cruz said. "I came to do what I had to do to win. Mijares had great experience. He's a lefty. I had to be ready. We practiced everything to put on a great fight."

Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs), a former bantamweight titleholder before vacating the belt to move up in weight, was making the second defense of the 122-pound title he won by third-round knockout of Victor Terrazas in August. Santa Cruz, 25, of Mexico and living in Los Angeles, went the distance in a December defense against Cesar Seda. And although he went the distance again, he had a much easier time with Mijares, who could not do anything of consequence.

Santa Cruz gained control immediately and imposed himself on the smaller Mijares, a southpaw and former two-time 115-pound titleholder. Santa Cruz worked to the head and body and seemed to raise swelling around Mijares' right eye in the opening round.

It didn't get much better for Mijares (48-8-2, 22 KOs), 32, of Mexico, who ate an assortment of left hooks and right hands regularly.

Santa Cruz suffered a cut over his right eye in the fourth round as a result of an accidental head butt, but it did not seem to impede his vision or relentless style.

"The blood wasn't bothering me unless it was going in my eye," Santa Cruz said.

In the fifth round, Mijares began to run in an effort to stay away from Santa Cruz's nonstop punches, but Santa Cruz chased right after him and continued to fire until the final bell.

"I didn't do my job. I did everything I could to win it but it was difficult because of Leo's reach. But he never hurt me," Mijares said.

Mijares came into the fight having won two fights in a row by knockout following a split decision to Terrazas for a vacant title last April; Terrazas then lost the title to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz hopes to next face Northern Ireland's Carl Frampton, who could become Santa Cruz's mandatory challenger if Frampton beats Hugo Cazares in their upcoming fight.

"I want [Frampton] next," Santa Cruz said. "This is a dream come true."

Linares dominates Arakawa

Lightweights Jorge Linares (36-3, 23 KOs) and Nihito Arakawa (24-4-1, 16 KOs) were not originally scheduled to fight on the pay-per-view portion of the card, but their fight was moved onto television when another bout fell out. Linares took advantage of the exposure, rolling to a near-shutout decision in their elimination bout.

Linares took home scores of 100-90, 100-90 and 98-92.

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