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.

"I knew that Arakawa could take a punch going into the fight," Linares said. "I hurt my right hand in the fourth round. That's why I relied so heavily on my left hand. I want to fight for the title whenever [titleholder] Omar Figueroa says."

Linares, with his broad shoulders, looked much bigger than Arakawa and displayed fast hands when he threw combinations, many of which landed. But Arakawa has an excellent chin, took the shots well and landed his own shots, which began to swell Linares' left eye in the third round.

Japan's Arakawa fought a courageous interim lightweight title bout with Figueroa in July in San Antonio that earned him the nickname "The Japanese Rocky."

Although Arakawa lost a decision to Figueroa, the way he fought and the heart he showed earned him another opportunity on a big card against Linares, who is from Venezuela but lives in Japan.

Arakawa tried to rumble with Linares, a former junior lightweight and featherweight titleholder, and landed some hard punches, but not nearly enough to shake Linares. He also could not deal with Linares' hand speed.

Arakawa's right eye began to badly swell in the eighth round as he bulled forward but was taking shots from Linares on the way in, including a clean uppercut at the end of the eighth round. But he also opened a cut over Linares' right eye in the round. Arakawa's right eye began to bleed badly in the ninth round, and both of their faces were covered in blood as they traded in the 10th round.

• Lightweight Sergio "Yeyo" Thompson, who took the fight on a week's notice, dropped his Mexican countryman Ricardo Alvarez twice and won a 10-round unanimous decision in an action fight.

All three judges had it for Thompson, 97-91, 95-93 and 95-93.

Alvarez, the older brother of card headliner Canelo Alvarez, was originally supposed to challenge lightweight titleholder Omar Figueroa, but Figueroa suffered a left hand injury last week and dropped off the card. The fight with Thompson, a longtime top junior lightweight contender who had moved up in weight, was made on short notice.

Thompson (29-3, 26 KOs) came out blasting with both hands, and Alvarez (23-3-3, 13 KOs) was in major trouble in the opening minute of the fight. Thompson hammered him with clean shots with both hands and had him seemingly out on his feet. But Alvarez survived and was able to connect with a couple of shots to keep Thompson off him.

Alvarez recovered well and seemed to do more damage in the second round. In the third round, Thompson sent Alvarez reeling into the ropes on the end of a hard left jab, prompting referee Vic Drakulich to rule a knockdown because the ropes held him up.

Thompson dropped Alvarez again in the eighth round, landing a clean straight right hand 30 seconds into the round.

Thompson has won 15 of his past 16 fights, with the only loss coming by decision in a junior lightweight world title challenge against Takashi Miura in August in Japan.

• Junior lightweight Jerry Belmontes (19-3, 5 KOs) of Corpus Christi, Texas, spoiled the American debut of Will Tomlinson (21-1-1, 12 KOs) of Australia, easily outpointing him in Tomlinson's first fight since signing with Golden Boy Promotions.

Tomlinson recently signed a five-fight deal with Golden Boy, which thought it was getting a top 130-pound contender, but Tomlinson could not deal with the movement of Belmontes, who won on lopsided scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 98-92.

• Junior lightweight Francisco Vargas (19-0-1, 13 KOs), a 2008 Mexican Olympian, won a unanimous decision in a very tough, physical fight against Puerto Rico's Abner Cotto (17-2, 8 KOs), a cousin of three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto. The judges had it 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94 for Vargas, whose face was marked up for most of the fight. Cotto finished strong with a big 10th round, but it was too little too late.

• Junior featherweight Joseph Diaz (9-0, 7 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian from South El Monte, Calif., dominated Jovany Fuentes (5-4, 4 KOs) of Puerto Rico en route to a fifth-round knockout. Diaz slowly broke Fuentes down and had him in major trouble as he teed off on him at the closing moments of the fourth round. In the fifth round, Diaz, a southpaw, landed a left hand to the body that badly hurt Fuentes, who doubled over, and referee Russell Mora waved the fight off at 2 minutes, 59 seconds.

• St. Louis junior welterweight Keandre Gibson (9-0-1, 4 KOs) dominated Antonio Wong (11-8-1, 6 KOs) of Mexico, blew Wong's right eye and stopped him when referee Russell Mora stepped in to stop the punishment at 1 minute, 51 seconds of the fourth round.

• In the opening fight on the card, light heavyweight Steve Lovett (8-0, 6 KOs) of Australia made his United States debut and knocked out Francisco Molina (2-3, 2 KOs) of Mexico in the second round, dropping him with a right hand for referee Jay Nady's full count at 1 minute, 13 seconds.

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