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.

Boxer LaMotta, immortalized in ‘Raging Bull,’ dies at 95

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MIAMI (AP) Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion whose life was depicted in the film “Raging Bull,” has died at the age of 95.

His fiancee, Denise Baker, says LaMotta died Tuesday at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia.

The Bronx Bull, as he was known in his fighting days, compiled an 83-19-4 record with 30 knockouts.

LaMotta fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, handing Robinson his first defeat. He lost the middleweight title to him in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

In his previous fight, LaMotta saved the championship in movie-script fashion against Laurent Dauthuille. Trailing badly, LaMotta knocked out the challenger with 13 seconds left.

LaMotta threw a fight against Billy Fox, which he admitted in testimony before a U.S. Senate committee. He said he was promised a shot at a title.

On June 16, 1949, he became middleweight champion when Marcel Cerdan couldn’t continue after the 10th round.

The 1980 film “Raging Bull” was based on LaMotta’s memoir. Actor Robert DeNiro won an Academy Award for it.

Canelo and Golovkin fight to controversial draw

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gennady Golovkin retained his middleweight titles Saturday night, fighting to a draw with Canelo Alvarez in a brutal battle that ended with both fighters with their hands aloft in victory.

The middleweight showdown lived up to its hype as the two fighters traded huge punches and went after each other for 12 rounds. Neither fighter was down and neither appeared seriously hurt but both landed some huge punches to the head that had the crowd screaming in excitement.

Golovkin was the aggressor throughout and landed punches that had put other fighters to the canvas. But he couldn’t put Alvarez down, and the Mexican star more than stood his own in exchanges with Triple G, from Kazakhstan. The two were still brawling as the final seconds ticked down and the fight went to the scorecards.

One judge had Alvarez winning 118-110, a second had it 115-113 in Golovkin’s favor while the third had it 114-114. The Associated Press scored it 114-114.

Golovkin, who has never lost in 38 fights, retained his middleweight titles with the draw. But Alvarez showed that he could not only take Golovkin’s punches but land telling punches of his own.

A frenzied crowd of 22,358 at the T-Mobile Arena roared throughout the fight as the two middleweights put on the kind of show that boxing purists had anticipated. They brawled, used sharp jabs and counter-punched at times, with neither one willing to give the other much ground.

“Congratulations all my friends from Mexico,” Golovkin said. “I want a true fight. I want a big drama show.”

There was plenty of drama late in the fight as Alvarez seemed to rally and rocked Golovkin with uppercuts and big right hands. But just as soon as he landed he often took one back from the slugger so feared that most other fighter avoided him.

“I won seven-eight rounds easily,” Alvarez said.

It was a battle from the opening bell as Golovkin tried to walk Alvarez down but often found himself getting hit from sharp counter punches.

“Today, people give me draw. I focus on boxing,” Golovkin said. “Look my belts, I’m still champion. I’ve not lost.”

Golovkin predicted before the fight that the late rounds would resemble a street fight, and in a way they did. Both fighters were willing to trade, and both had no problems landing hard shots to the head.

Golovkin had chased Alvarez for nearly two years, trying to get the signature fight that would pay him millions and make him a pay-per-view draw on his own. Alvarez finally agreed after Golovkin looked vulnerable earlier this year against Daniel Jacobs in a decision win that stopped his knockout streak at 23 fights.