LAS VEGAS -- Junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz dominated Jesus Ruiz en route to an eighth-round knockout victory Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Santa Cruz retained his 122-pound world title for the fourth time. This time, it was on the Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder heavyweight title fight undercard in one-sided fashion against an unknown opponent he was criticized for facing, mainly because it was the second low-level fighter in a row he has defended against.
But Santa Cruz, who made $750,000 to Ruiz's $50,000 for the mismatch, did what he was supposed to do as he outworked and out-punched Ruiz throughout the fight.
"It was a war, but we came prepared. He gave me a tough fight," Santa Cruz said. "We went after him and stopped him. I know he was prepared."
Santa Cruz and Ruiz spent much of the first two rounds trading hard body shots, but Santa Cruz was doing more damage, and eventually his class showed.
He began to move his attack upstairs in the third round and landed several hard shots in an increasingly dominant showing. By the end of the fifth round, it was all Santa Cruz, who was landing to the head and body while Ruiz (32-6-5, 21 KOs), 25, of Mexico, could offer very little in return.
Santa Cruz (29-0-1, 17 KOs), 26, a Mexico native living in Los Angeles, continued to pound away in the seventh round and had Ruiz in some trouble as he retreated to the ropes, but he survived the onslaught. It was over seconds into the eighth, as Santa Cruz hammered him relentlessly along the ropes until referee Kenny Bayless stepped in and called it off 29 seconds into the round.
Santa Cruz, who won a bantamweight world title in 2012 and defended three times before vacating to move up in weight, where he claimed another title, said he wants to unify titles or face former titlist and featherweight contender Abner Mares.
"Of course, I want the best. I want to be the best," he said. "I want Mares, [unified champion Guillermo] Rigondeaux, [titlist] Scott Quigg. Hopefully, it can be one of them next."
Imam knocks out Maldonado in fifth round
Junior welterweight prospect Amir Imam found himself in a tough fight early on but eventually knocked out Fidel Maldonado Jr. in the fifth round of a wild fight.
First it was Imam, 24, an Albany, New York, native living in Pompano Beach, Florida, who nailed Maldonado with a flush right hand on the chin just as the second round was ending to knock him down.
Then the fight got really crazy in the third round, in which Imam went down and Maldonado hit the deck twice more. A few seconds into the third round, Maldonado (19-3, 16 KOs), 23, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, knocked Imam to his rear end with a left hand.
"It was a tough knockdown," said Imam, a silver medalist at the 2011 U.S. Olympic trials. "Just get up and finish the fight hard. I just had to stay composed and do what I had to do, and I did. I want a title shot."
Imam (16-0, 14 KOs) seemed OK after the knockdown and came back to land another hard right that dropped Maldonado again. A few seconds later, Maldonado went down again under heavy pressure as he was forced to touch both gloves to the mat to steady himself.
The fifth round was also action packed, but Imam had taken control when he hammered Maldonado with a right hand and a clean left hook to send him to the mat in exaggerated fashion. Maldonado, a southpaw, beat the count, but he was a mess, and referee Robert Byrd called off the fight at 2 minutes, 59 seconds.
"He kept his composure, and he came out with the W. I got caught, and he kept capitalizing," Maldonado said. "He was a better man tonight."
• Los Angeles-based Ukrainian light heavyweight Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (12-0, 10 KOs) laid a massive beating on battle-tested journeyman Garrett Wilson (13-9-1, 7 KOs), of Philadelphia, until referee Jay Nady stopped the fight on advice of the ringside doctor at the end of the ninth round.
Shabranskyy nearly ended the fight when he dropped Wilson right at the end of the second round with a huge right uppercut. Wilson was unsteady, but the round was over, and he had the minute rest period to recover.
He also nearly ended it in the eighth round when he landed a powerful right hand that landed flush on Wilson's chin and dropped him face first. It was surprising that he made it to his feet and even more so that he survived Shabranskyy's ensuing onslaught over the final 10 seconds of the round.
• Heavyweight Eric Molina (22-2, 16 KOs), of Rio Grande Valley, Texas, stopped Raphael Zumbano (32-9-1, 25 KOs), of Brazil, in the eighth and final round of a hard-fought but one-sided fight.
Molina had Zumbano in serious trouble when he badly hurt him with a body shot in the sixth round. He finished him in the eighth, when he backed him up to the ropes with a right uppercut, then rocked him with a left and a right to the head, which forced referee Russell Mora to step in at 1 minute, 28 seconds. Molina won his fifth fight in a row since being knocked out by Chis Arreola in the first round in February 2012.
• Las Vegas junior welterweight Cesar Quinonez (1-0, 1 KO) made a rousing professional debut, as he easily stopped Joan Valenzuela (1-2, 1 KO), of Mexico, in the second round. Quinonez had Valenezuela hurt earlier in the round, and when he unloaded another barrage of punches, referee Mora stepped in and waved it off at 2 minutes, 13 seconds.