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.

Manny Pacquiao loses WBO welterweight title on points to Jeff Horn

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Manny Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight world title to Jeff Horn in a stunning, unanimous points decision in a Sunday afternoon bout billed as the Battle of Brisbane in front of more than 50,000 people.

The 11-time world champion entered the fight at Suncorp Stadium as a hot favorite but got more than he bargained for against the 29-year-old former schoolteacher.

Still, Pacquiao dominated the later rounds and the result could have gone his way.

Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach predicted the fight would be short and sweet but Horn – unbeaten in his 17 previous professional fights – applied pressure by winning some of the early rounds and Pacquiao needed treatment during the 6th and 7th rounds for a cut on the top of his head that resulted from a clash of heads.

The judges scored the fight 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113, with Horn immediately calling out Floyd Mayweather Jr., after the fight, declaring himself “no joke.”

Roach had said earlier in the week that he’d think about advising Pacquioa to retire if he lost the fight, but that would depend on how he fought.

Pacquiao’s camp had talked about a rematch with Mayweather if he got past Horn, hoping to avenge his loss on points in the 2015 mega fight. That seems to be a distant chance now.

Pacquiao, who entered the fight with a record of 59-6-2, 38 knockouts, was defending the WBO title he won on points against Jessie Vargas last November.

Mayweather vs. McGregor odds: Sportsbooks set betting lines, props for fight

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Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor stand to collect a massive payday whether their superfight is a charade or a combat sports classic, and there’s plenty of upside for bettors too.

With the bout set, Mayweather is a -600 moneyline favorite against the +400 underdog McGregor at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.  Mayweather will put a 49-0 ring record on the line in the August 26 bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, while McGregor, a UFC champion at two weights, might prove a point just by having a decent showing.

The moneyline has tightened considerably since the first rumors about the fight. Last November, Mayweather opened at -2250 and McGregor opened at +950. Evidently, many MMA fans found McGregor irresistible at that price, as it steadily dropped, falling to +450 by late April. That was also the point where the moneyline on ‘Money’ came down to -700.

The over/under on rounds is 9.5. A 10-round fight is uncharted waters for McGregor, but 13 of Mayweather’s last 14 fights have gone at least 10 rounds. Twelve have gone the full 12 rounds; the Mayweather-McGregor betting odds on whether the fight goes the distance pays +125 if it does, and -175 if it’s stopped early.

McGregor also pays +120 if he wins by decision, which is the standard outcome for his bouts against full-time boxers. McGregor’s method-of-victory props include +700 for a knockout and +3300 for victory by decision.

There is little in the way of past performance to go on here, since McGregor hasn’t boxed since he was a teenager in Ireland. Mayweather’s defensive skills should allow him to parry any early onslaught from McGregor, who is a knockout artist in the UFC octagon and rarely has fights go more than two rounds.

The round prices offer the most potential profit for Mayweather backers. One can assume that the skilled defensive fighter might dance around while McGregor goes out hard. It might be prudent to scale down expectations of a quick finish – +3300 for Mayweather winning in Round 1, +2500 for Round 2 – and look at the slightly later rounds. Rounds 4 through 6 are listed at +1600 and +1400.

While Mayweather’s round prices trace a reverse parabola, McGregor’s round prices are relatively stable. The Irishman offers +4000 for a win in Round 1, or each one from Rounds 4-7. There is a slight drop to +3300 for both Round 2 and 3.

Another way to bet on the Mayweather-McGregor fight is the 4.99 million total for pay-per-view buys. The over hitting would require beating the audience for Mayweather’s 2015 fight against Manny Pacquaio (4.6 million). McGregor also holds the UFC’s PPV record of 1.65 million, set at UFC 202 in August 2016

With boxing and MMA fans creating a larger fanbase and the event being scheduled for the dog days of late August – before the NFL and college football blot out everything else on the sports landscape – 5 million buys seems doable.