• By Miguel Maravilla at Ringside Photos from Sean

Santa Cruz Defeats Rivera in Going the Distance


WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) successfully defended his title as he won a hard fought unanimous decision over a very game Rafael Rivera (26-3-2, 17 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico that came to fight Saturday night at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles headlining Premier Boxing Champions on FOX and FOX Deportes. It was a feel out round in the first as Santa Cruz and Rivera felt each other out popping the jab, then finished the round strong. Things picked up in round two as Rivera and Santa Cruz let their hands go. Exchanging on the inside in round three, Rivera and Santa Cruz continued to let their hands go. Santa Cruz began to dig to the body in the fourth as he connected Rivera with a few solid left hooks to the body but Rivera held his own mixing it up.

Mixing it up inside in the fifth both Santa Cruz and Rivera continued to brawl as they had the crowd on their feet. At the halfway point in round six Santa Cruz did not take a step back attacking inside but Rivera hung in there as he returned the favor connecting the champ with solid punches. Past the halfway point in the seventh, Santa Cruz stalked as Rivera began fighting off his back foot. Santa Cruz began to take over late in the fight in the eight as he pressed Rivera but there was no quitting in the Tijuana fighter.

Late in the fight in the ninth round, the champ continued to press but there was no quitting in Rivera as he exchanged and mix it up with Santa Cruz. The tenth saw Rivera and Santa Cruz continuing to mix it up on the inside as neither took a step back. The champ Santa Cruz did not take his foot of the gas pedal as he continued to work in the championship rounds but Rivera kept coming making the most of it. The twelfth and final round was all action as Santa Cruz looked to secure it staying busy with Rivera giving the champ all he can handle in trading away to the final bell.

All three judges scored the bout 119-109.

Former world champion Omar Figueroa (28-0-1, 19 KOs) of Welasco, Texas won a unanimous decision over exciting veteran slugger John Molina Jr. (30-8, 24 KOs) of Covina, California. Figueroa, who came in five pounds over the welterweight limit struggled early as Molina connected him with a right hand in the opening round. Fighting on the inside in round two, Figueroa and Molina did not hold back. Continuing to fight at close range in the third, Figueroa and Molina pounded away. Later in the round Molina cornered Figueroa and landed solidly on the inside. Standing toe to toe in the fourth, Figueroa began to back up Molina to the ropes but the veteran held his own.

A chopping right hand in the fifth backed Figueroa to the ropes as Molina attacked. Molina landed another solid right hand in the sixth as he kept overwhelming and outworking Figueroa. Continuing on the inside in the seventh, Figueroa and Molina kept their hands going. Late in the fight in the eighth, Molina once again backed Figueroa to the ropes with the chopping right but the Texan continued to go forward. With the two fighters tired in the ninth, Figueroa connected with a solid right but Molina kept throwing. With the fight hanging close, tenth and final round saw Figueroa pressing as Molina kept his distance popping the jab.

In the end the judges scored the bout 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93.

Undefeated super welterweight prospect Sebastian Fundora (12-0, 8 KOs) of Coachella, California scored a third round stoppage over Donnie Marshall (10-1, 6 KOs). Fudora hurt Marshall on the inside in round two as he followed up and continued to attack. However in round three, Fundora dropped Marshall with a right as he got up. The tall and rangy Fundora finished him with an accumulation of punches as the referee stepped in to stop the fight at 1:08 of the third.

Other Bouts

In an IBF super bantamweight title eliminator, former champion Ryosuka Iwasa (26-3, 16 KOs) scored a ten round technical decision over Cesar “Corazon” Juarez (23-7, 17 KOs) on Saturday night at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The action was fast and furious between Juarez and Iwasa, who engaged in a close-quarters brawl. Late in the fight, Juarez suffered a cut from an accidental head butt. The fight was stopped after ten rounds and the judges had it 98-92, 97-93, and 95-95 as Iwasa wins a majority decision.

2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas (7-0, 5 KOs) stopped Jose Torres (13-11, 1 KO) in three. Balderas sent Torres to the canvas in the third and later hurt him with the left hooks to the body finishing him as he could not continue.

Former world champion Marlon Tapales (31-2, 14 KOs) Fernando Vargas Parra (34-14-3, KOs) in a featherweight bout.South Africa’s DeeJay Kriel (15-1, 6 KOs) stopped previously unbeaten IBF strawweight champion Carlos Licona (14-1, 2 KOs) in the final round in what was a wild one on Saturday night at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.

Licona landed the power shots throughout the fight as Kriel boxed. Late in the fight, Kriel’s face was swollen as Licona pressed the action. However, in the twelfth round, Kriel had his best moment in the fight dropping Licona three times in a wild finish. Kriel wins the IBF strawweight title.

Former world champion Marlon Tapales (32-2, 15 KOs) stopped Fernando Vargas (34-14-3, KOs) in five rounds in a scheduled ten round featherweight bout.

Ukrainian Ivan Redkach (22-4-1, 17 KOs) made quick work of Tyrone Harris (26-14, 16 KOs) scoring a first round knockout in a scheduled eight-round welterweight match.

Middleweight Hugo Centeno, Jr. (27-2, 14 KOs) of Oxnard won a fourth round technical decision over Oscar Cortez (27-4, 14 KOs) squared off. Centeno scored a knockdown as he and Cortez clashed heads in the fourth the bout was stopped.

Undefeated super featherweight prospect Jerry Perez (11-0, 8 KOs) scored fourth round stoppage over Ivan Benitez (12-3, 4 KOs).Undefeated super lightweight prospect Julian Rodarte (15- 0-1, 6 KOs) won a unanimous decision over Miguel Mendoza (23-15-2, 22 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout. All three judges scored the bout 79-73.

Making his pro debut of Shon Mondragon (1-0, 1 KO) of Denver stopped Julio Martinez (1-1) in two rounds of a four-round super bantamweight fight. From the start Mondragon attacked as he bloodied his opponent Martinez. The corner had seen enough as they threw in the towel referee Ray Corona stepped in to stop the fight at 47 seconds into the second.

In the opening bout In the opening bout from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles super featherweights, Argentina's Neri Romero (12-0, 7 KOs) and Thomas Smith (5-7-1, 3 KOs) of Dallas went the distance in a scheduled six round bout. Smith dropped Romero in the opening round but the Argentine continued to fight. The Texan fighter, Smith continued to give the aggressive Romero issues with his flashy style throughout the fight. Romero was cut in the final round but continued to press as Smith popped the jab and kept his distance.

All three judges scored the bout 58-55 as Neri Romero pulls off a questionable unanimous decision.

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