Leo Santa Cruz beats Abner Mares by majority decision

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LOS ANGELES (AP) With his hometown crowd going crazy and Abner Mares charging right at him from the opening bell, Leo Santa Cruz really wanted to brawl.

Santa Cruz survived and thrived when he returned to the skill that made him the unofficial king of L.A. boxing.

Santa Cruz beat Mares by majority decision Saturday night, remaining unbeaten with a superior technical performance in an entertaining featherweight bout between two local fighters.

Santa Cruz (31-0-1) survived a night of furious exchanges and eventually controlled several rounds with his superior jab and reach, overcoming Mares’ heavy pressure. He left Mares bloodied after the final bell, raising his arms in victory.

“My dad told me that we could beat him by boxing,” Santa Cruz said about his father and trainer, Jose. “We want to be aggressive, but tonight we had to box him, too. And that’s how we got it done.”

A raucous crowd at Staples Center supported Santa Cruz over Mares, but just barely. Both fighters were born in Mexico and grew up in the Los Angeles area, attracting a turnout of 13,109 to decide local bragging rights.

Those fans got a treat of a fight featuring 2,037 total punches, and Santa Cruz emerged with the virtual crown. Both fighters immediately said they would welcome a rematch, which wouldn’t be difficult to book because both fighters are managed by Al Haymon under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.

Mares (29-2-1) did admirable work inside and survived numerous big shots, but ultimately couldn’t land a decisive blow. Although he felt he won the fight, Mares emerged frustrated by Santa Cruz’s jab that kept him inches away from a chance to change the fight.

“I think I made a mistake in my strategy,” Mares said. “I came out strong, and my corner was telling me to slow down. I wanted to go as fast as I could.”

Two judges scored the fight 117-111 for Santa Cruz, while Max DeLuca had a 114-114 draw. The Associated Press favored Santa Cruz, 116-112.

Santa Cruz landed 35 percent of his 1,057 punches, while Mares connected with just 23 percent of his 980 blows.

Santa Cruz’s superior reach and dominant jab work made the difference: In just his second 126-pound fight, Santa Cruz landed sharper and bigger punches during long stretches of the bout, which was mostly action-packed from the opening bell.

The crowd was worked into a furor by the opening bell, and the fighters responded to that energy by basically running straight at each other and throwing haymakers. They took only occasional breaks in that pace during the frenetic first half of the fight, even after both were cut during a clash of heads in the third.

“I stayed outside with the jab,” Santa Cruz said. “We were able to take control.”

Santa Cruz maintained distance and used his left hook to punish Mares, who had blood trickling from a cut near his right eye in the late rounds. Mares kept throwing shots to Santa Cruz’s body, but Santa Cruz calmly kept peppering Mares’ face until the final bell.

Los Angeles boxing fans had eagerly anticipated this matchup between these occasional sparring partners.

Santa Cruz, who grew up in the nearby Lincoln Heights neighborhood, became a fixture on the undercards of major fights. His career slowed in recent years with several matchups against second-tier contenders for his WBC 122-pound title, but he moved up in weight last May on the Mayweather-Pacquiao undercard.

Mares, from Hawaiian Gardens, won titles in three weight classes during an impressive two-year span, but his progress was interrupted by a stunning first-round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013. After 11 months off, he returned with three straight wins.

On the undercard, Julio Cesar Ceja rebounded from an early knockdown and stopped Hugo Ruiz with 26 seconds left in the fifth round of the impressive U.S. debuts by two promising Mexican 122-pounders.

Ruiz knocked down Ceja (29-1, 27 KOs) with a looping left hook in the third round, and Ceja was down on all three judges’ scorecards when he flattened Ruiz (35-3) with a dynamite left to the chin. Several moments later, the referee stopped the bout.

Ceja earned a shot at Santa Cruz for his WBC 122-pound belt if Santa Cruz elects to drop back down to super featherweight.

Alfredo “Perro” Angulo also stopped Hector Munoz after five rounds for his second straight victory following a three-fight skid for the popular Mexican super middleweight.

Canelo Alvarez withdraws from May 5 fight with Golovkin

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Canelo Alvarez has withdrawn from next month’s middleweight title fight with Gennady Golovkin, two months after Alvarez twice tested for a banned substance.

The May 5 fight in Las Vegas was to have been a rematch of the draw they fought last September. But on March 5, Alvarez’s promoters, Golden Boy Promotions, announced he twice tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol in February. They blamed contaminated meat, and Alvarez agreed to random drug testing.

It was unlikely the Nevada State Athletic Commission would approve the fight after it temporarily suspended Alvarez, who could face a longer suspension.

Alvarez is to appear before the commission April 18 concerning the positive tests. Golden Boy President Eric Gomez said Tuesday the promoters were advised Alvarez likely would not be cleared to fight May 5.

“I have always been a clean fighter and I always will be a clean fighter,” Alvarez said Tuesday during a conference call. “I want to prove without a doubt that I have never intentionally ingested clenbuterol. I have nothing to hide and I want to be open and transparent through this process. . I have never taken illegal substances and this is no different.”

Golovkin is hoping to fight a different opponent at T-Mobile Arena on May 5, but it won’t approach the huge event that the rematch with Alvarez would have been. It’s possible the two could meet later this year, depending on any sanctions placed on the Mexican fighter.

Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, publicly doubted that tainted meat caused Alvarez’s positive test.

“Again with Mexican meat? Come on,” Golovkin said in March. I told you, it’s not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion. … Canelo is cheating. They’re using these drugs, and everybody is just trying to pretend it’s not happening.”

Alvarez-Triple G fight in jeopardy on drug complaint

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Nevada boxing regulators have filed a formal complaint against Canelo Alvarez for doping violations, putting his May 5 middleweight title rematch with Gennady Golovkin in jeopardy.

Alvarez could be suspended for a year for testing positive twice for the performance-enhancing drug Clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, in February.

An April 18 hearing was set on the complaint by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, replacing an earlier April 10 hearing that had been set. The hearing is just two weeks before the fight, making it doubtful the fight will proceed on that date.

Nevada boxing regulations call for a one-year ban for first violations, though it can be cut in half at the commission’s discretion. Even if Alvarez gets a six-month suspension, the fight would not take place until August at the earliest.