A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:
Saturday at Los Angeles
Leo Santa Cruz W12 Abner Mares
Wins a vacant featherweight title
Scores: 117-111 (twice), 114-114
Records: Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs); Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: For the past couple of years fight fans clamored for a showdown between Los Angeles-based Mexicans Santa Cruz and Mares for obvious reasons -- they are both superb fighters with action styles. To believe a fight between them would be a fight of the year candidate was a no-brainer. So while it may have taken a little longer for the fight to happen than most would have liked, especially because Santa Cruz, 27, and Mares, 29, fought poor opposition in recent fights rather than each other, it was worth the wait.
Fighting before an electric crowd of 13,109 at the Staples Center and headlining a Premier Boxing Champions card on ESPN, Santa Cruz and Mares produced an old fashioned slugfest reminiscent of some other great all-Mexican scraps such as the Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales battles and Rafael Marquez-Israel Vazquez rivalry.
This was a very hard-fought battle that almost surely will wind up as a fight of the year honorable mention and could very well produce a rematch.
Initially, the fight was simply for Los Angeles bragging rights but the stakes grew bigger when the week of the fight it was sanctioned for a vacant world title, which Santa Cruz added to his growing collection. He won a belt in his third division, having also won titles at bantamweight and junior featherweight, where he still has a belt and must soon decide which one to keep.
Mares, a former bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight titleholder, charged at Santa Cruz at the opening bell with the intention to make this a brawl from the start. So it was on right away and it was sensational. Santa Cruz was happy to engage if that's what Mares wanted, so they spent round after round trading shots at a breakneck pace. The pace was wicked and Mares was applying intense pressure. Santa Cruz, while still slugging, eventually was able to subtlely box as well. He is taller and longer than Mares and put his jab to good use to keep Mares on the outside as much as possible. But there were still plenty of explosive exchanges that had the crowd on its feet and cheering. Santa Cruz and Mares, who both earned career-high purses of $1.25 million, both were cut by an accidental head-butt in the third round, although the cut Mares suffered over his left eye was much worse than the nick Santa Cruz had.
As exciting as the fight was and as many close rounds there were, it seemed clear that Santa Cruz, mainly because of his jab and just enough movement, had taken over the fight down the stretch against a tiring Mares. In the end, the right guy got the decision even if Mares' frustration with the two wide scorecards is understandable. But there were a lot of close rounds that could have gone either way, so having scorecards sort of all over the place was not a surprise.
They combined to throw an outlandish 2,037 punches and land 600, according to CompuBox punch statistics. Santa Cruz, whose huge punch output has been his calling card, landed 373 of 1,057 punches (35 percent), including 71 jabs. Mares connected on 227 of 980 shots (23 percent), landing only seven jabs, which was a huge key to the outstanding bout.
Neither fighter will lack for quality future opponents even if they do not have a rematch. They are both with manager Al Haymon, whose stable also includes other top featherweights, including titleholders Gary Russell Jr., Lee Selby and Jesus Cuellar, not to mention junior featherweight titlist (and soon to be featherweight) Carl Frampton. An unofficial round robin of these fighters, with Santa Cruz and Mares figuring prominently in it, seems likely.
Julio Cesar Ceja TKO5 Hugo Ruiz
Wins a vacant interim junior featherweight title
Records: Ceja (30-1, 27 KOs); Ruiz (35-3, 31 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Ruiz was the mandatory challenger for world titleholder Leo Santa Cruz, but with Santa Cruz squaring off with Abner Mares in the main event, Ruiz and Ceja met for the interim title. However, Ceja is poised to become the full titleholder following his dramatic knockout victory coupled with the fact that Santa Cruz defeated Mares to win a vacant featherweight belt and likely will not return to junior featherweight. In the unlikely event that Santa Cruz does return to 122 pounds, he would have to defend against Ceja.
Ceja, 22, showed true grit with his comeback victory against Ruiz, 28, his Mexican countryman. The first two rounds of the fight were basically even but Ruiz, who was the favorite, had a very big third round. He knocked down Ceja with a clean left hook and had him in desperate trouble in the final minute of the round and buckled him with a right hand in the final seconds. Ruiz's right hand also was powerful and accurate and he hurt Ceja with two of them in the fourth round.
So as they went to the fifth round, Ruiz was up on all three scorecards, 40-35, 39-36 and 38-37. But that turned out not to matter as Ceja came roaring back. He dropped Ruiz flat on his back with a left hook to the chin and then dished out several clean punches during a follow-up attack, which forced referee Raul Caiz Sr. to step in and stop the bout at 2 minutes, 34 seconds. Ceja said he would like for Santa Cruz to come back to junior featherweight for what would be a lucrative fight, but that is unlikely. Instead, Ceja will become a full titleholder surely won't lack for interesting, fan-friendly fights.
In Ceja's only previous world title bout, he dropped a majority decision to Jamie McDonnell in vacant bantamweight title fight in McDonnell's home country of England in May 2013. But since then Ceja has won six fights in a row, including the big one against Ruiz.
Alfredo Angulo TKO5 Hector Munoz
Records: Angulo (24-5, 20 KOs); Munoz (23-16-1, 15 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Mexican brawler Angulo, 33, looked particularly bad during a four-fight stretch in which he lost by knockout to Erislandy Lara (against whom he quit with an eye injury) and Canelo Alvarez (who thrashed him), by one-sided decision to James De La Rosa and then knocked out journeyman Delray Raines in a huge and unexpected struggle in June. At that point, Angulo looked like a totally shot and finished fighter.
It is still very questionable how he would hold up against another serious opponent, but he had no problems with the game and hard-charging (and much smaller) Munoz, 37, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who has lost to a who's who of top fighters.
Angulo and Munoz slugged it out in an entertaining battle (which was streamed live on ESPN3.com) until Munoz's corner rightfully stopped it after the fifth round. To that point, they had the crowd cheering a rock 'em, sock 'em fight that Angulo dominated. Angulo dropped Munoz with a hard right hand in the fifth round with about 10 seconds left in the round. He made it out of the round but his corner called off the bout when he got back to the stool. Angulo was contracted to fight at 162 pounds but the deal was changed before the weigh-in to 163 pounds because Angulo could not make weight. His team threw an extra $10,000 at Munoz, who, of course, fought anyway.
Saturday at Inglewood, Calif.
Shane Mosley KO6 Ricardo Mayorga
Records: Mosley (48-9-1, 40 KOs); Mayorga (31-9-1, 25 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Mosley's knockout of Mayorga ended a wild buildup (which included a seemingly staged news conference slapping) to a misguided $50 pay-per-view rematch nobody asked for, few attended at the Forum and meant little. All that said, Mosley, 43, of Pomona, California, didn't look half bad for a guy who ended a nearly two-year retirement following a 1-3 stretch in which he had looked very bad. Mosley, whose GoBox Promotions put on its first event, said injuries were the issue in his poor stretch and that he has recovered.
In 2008, Mosley, the former pound-for-pound king and former lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight world champion, knocked out Mayorga, the former undisputed welterweight champion and a former junior middleweight titlist, with one second remaining in the 12th round. This time he did it in half as much time, stopping Mayorga with one second left in the sixth round with a tremendous left hook to the liver that knocked Mayorga to a knee, where he took the full count from referee Raul Caiz Jr.
Before the knockout, the flabby Mayorga, 42, who clearly did not train seriously for the fight and failed to make weight (no surprise whatsoever), was having his best round in the sixth. He had rocked Mosley with two right hands that sent him stumbling and had landed other hard shots. But besides that it was all Mosley, who still has quick hands and battered Mayorga.
From the outset Mayorga was a stationary target who sopped up punishment. Mosley could barely miss with his right hand. Mayorga put up his usual bravado, dropping his hands and daring Mosley to hit him in the third round. Mosley, of course, obliged, cracking him with a right hand across the face. More right hands landed cleanly for Mosley in the fifth round to open a cut over Mayorga's right eye.
Mayorga hasn't been a serious fighter for many years and has been through long layoffs and legal problems. He had two huge wins against the late Vernon Forrest (who beat Mosley twice) in his 2003 prime and parlayed that into becoming a cartoon-like B-side in knockout losses to superstars Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Mosley and Miguel Cotto. Now that Mosley has knocked him out again, hopefully he is gone from boxing for good. Mosley, meanwhile, thinks that this win is meaningful and intends to fight on. He said he would like a fight at welterweight with Juan Manuel Marquez or a title shot against Kell Brook. Whatever happens, Mosley has no plans to go quietly into the night.
Saturday at Kiev, Ukraine
Oleksandr Usyk TKO3 Johnny Muller
Records: Usyk (8-0, 8 KOs); Muller (19-5-2, 13 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Usyk, 28, of Ukraine, was the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist, is one of the best prospects in boxing. His disposal of Muller, of South Africa, who saw a three-fight win streak come to an end, did nothing to change that notion. Usyk, a southpaw, got into a rhythm quickly as he established his jab and went to work sticking it in Muller's face to take control of the fight right away. With Kiev mayor and former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko -- who is also Usyk's promoter -- at ringside, Usyk turned up the heat late in the third round. He knocked down Muller with a straight left hand with 46 seconds remaining in the round and moments later dropped him again, even harder this time, with a left hand to the jaw. Muller showed great heart to go on but Usyk was all over him. He pounded him relentlessly during a follow-up barrage until referee Ingo Barrabas jumped in to wave off the fight at 2 minutes, 59 seconds. The Usyk Express to a world title shot rolls on.
Friday at Marbella, Spain
Matthew Macklin KO1 Chris Hermann
Records: Macklin (33-6, 22 KOs); Hermann (19-7-1, 10 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Macklin, 33, who lost three shots at middleweight world titles (to Gennady Golovkin, Sergio Martinez and by controversial decision to Felix Sturm), blew past Hermann 28, of Germany. Macklin needed only 1 minute, 44 seconds to knock out Hermann with a left hook to the body to hand him his third loss in a row (all by early knockout).
The fight was part of Macklin's three-fight plan he hopes lands him another world title opportunity, this time at junior middleweight. For his next fight, Macklin plans return to junior middleweight for the first time since 2006 when he faces Jason Welborn (17-3, 6 KOs) on Oct. 17 in Macklin's hometown of Birmingham, England. Macklin hopes a strong performance against Welborn will result in a chance to fight for a title in 2016. Macklin won his second fight in a row since suffering a brutal 10th-round knockout loss to Jorge Sebastian Heiland in November, after which Macklin briefly considered retirement.
Friday at Las Vegas
Trevor Bryan W10 Derric Rossy
Scores: 98-91 (twice), 97-92
Records: Bryan (16-0, 11 KOs); Rossy (30-10, 14 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Bryan, 26, of Albany, New York, stamped himself as an American heavyweight to at least keep an eye on thanks to this win in a very exciting fight against battle-tested Rossy, 35, of Medford, New York, in the main event of Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation," which took place outdoors in 100 degree-plus heat.
Rossy dropped to 2-5 in his past seven fights but usually gives his opponents a tough fight, which is exactly what he did with Bryan in his most significant fight so far in his pro career.
Bryan, one of the few interesting fighters remaining in promoter Don King's nearly empty stable, got off to quick start by knocking down Rossy with a flurry of blows punctuated by a left hook barely 30 seconds into the fight. But Rossy survived and made things interesting despite the lopsided scores in the action-packed fight. The third round was perhaps the best of the fight, a back-and-forth frame in which they basically spent the entire three minutes trading toe-to-toe. All in all, the fight was the kind of great learning experience Bryan needed as he went 10 rounds for the first time.
"I think I showed to people that I like to fight and that I will fight," Bryan said. "The heavyweight division is weak. Guys don't like to throw a lot of punches. Being this was my first time on television, I think I had more anxiety than anything, but overall I was very happy with my performance. Rossy is a very durable, experienced guy. For him to hang in like he did says a lot. I know I definitely hurt him a few times but I didn't follow up with the right punches. I didn't place my punches like I should have after he was hurt. I know I need to relax more and listen to my corner."
DeCarlo Perez W10 Juan Ubaldo Cabrera
Scores: 98-91 (twice), 97-92
Records: Perez (15-3-1, 5 KOs); Cabrera (23-1, 16 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Perez, 24, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, came in as the decided underdog, having only taken the fight a week ahead of time when Mike Gavronski pulled out because of an injury. But Perez won his fourth fight in a row as he pulled the upset with a convincing decision against Cabrera, 36, a 2000 and 2004 Olympian from the Dominican Republic. Cabrera got off to a solid start but began to fade after the third round and Perez took over. Cabrera, who has had long stretches of inactivity during his career, put himself in an even deeper hole in the seventh round when he hit Perez behind the head and referee Vic Drakulich took away one point for the foul.
"I knew I'd be getting stronger as the fight went on," Perez said. "To keep throwing punches and dishing out punishment, that's my style. This should open up a lot of doors for me. What I did was prove what intense work ethic, pushing and fighting through all the odds, can do. I am very happy and already am looking forward to my next fight."
Said Cabrera, "I just got outhustled. He didn't punch that hard. I was never hurt. I just didn't throw enough. I felt fine until I got tired in the 10th."
Joey Dawejko KO1 Natu Visinia
Records: Dawejko (16-4-2, 9 KOs); Visinia (11-2, 9 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Well, that was quick! Dawejko, 25, of Philadelphia, needed just 1 minute, 15 seconds to drill Visinia, 30, a Samoa native living in Clinton, Illinois, in an unexpectedly dominant performance. Although the 5-foot-10, 236¾-pound Dawejko was giving up five inches in height and 37¾ pounds, he blew away Visinia in ruthless fashion. He immediately rocked Visinia with an overhand right that sent him staggering backward moments into the fight. Dawejko followed with three more overhand rights that sent him into the ropes, which referee Russell Mora correctly ruled a knockdown because the ropes were holding him up. Then Dawejko charged at Visinia and unleashed a nine-punch flurry, including a few big right hands that connected and sent him slumping into the ropes as Mora jumped in to stop the fight. It was an impressive win for Dawejko, especially considering that two fights ago Visinia lasted into the seventh round before being stopped by contender Steve Cunningham 10 months ago.
"I thought I would knock him out but not that fast," Dawejko said. "Natu's a tough guy. My plan was to tire him out and take him out in the fourth or fifth. This win does everything for my career."