Leo Santa Cruz Decisions Rafael Rivera, Retains WBA Featherweight Title

By Mike Sloan Feb 17, 2019


Leo Santa Cruz got the expected win Saturday in the main event of a Fox-televised boxing card inside Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t the walkover many expected.

Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) took a round or two to feel Rafael Rivera out, but once he did, the reigning WBA featherweight champion never stopped throwing punches. The two exchanged furious combos throughout the contest, each giving as good as he took, but Santa Cruz was not only busier, he landed the harder, more telling blows.

Rivera (26-3-2, 17 KOs), who replaced original opponent Miguel Flores on short notice, never took a step back and tried to turn the tables on the champ, but he was in over his head for much of the fight. Rivera kept things interesting and exciting, but Santa Cruz wound up winning a unanimous decision in a landslide. All three ringside judges favored Santa Cruz with a score of 119-109, as did Sherdog.com.

After the fight, Santa Cruz said he wants to fight nothing but the best possible opposition.

“I want to fight the best,” he said in the ring after his victory. “I want to fight any of the champions at featherweight or have a third fight with Carl Frampton. I want to be back this summer and fight three times this year against the best in the division.”

In the televised co-feature, Omar Figueroa Jr. (28-1-1, 19 KOs) finally made his return to the ring and was triumphant against longtime veteran John Molina Jr. Figueroa, who came in five pounds overweight for his welterweight showdown, was sluggish early on. Molina was aggressive and had the younger fighter frustrated, but Figueroa eventually found his way and got into a rhythm.

Molina (30-8, 24 KOs) kept pressing the issue and forced Figueroa into the ropes repeatedly, but even as he was dishing out hard punches to the head and body, “Panterita” fired back with equal or harder punches. The fight seemed to hang in the balance in the final round, but Figueroa seized control of the 10th and closed out the duel by forcing Molina backward. In the end, Figueroa was awarded a unanimous decision by a wide margin; the judges saw it 97-93, 98-92 and 99-91, though the fight appeared to be much closer than that.

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