Wednesday, May 31, 2023  |



Leo Santa Cruz’s stock high after emphatic win over Martinez

Fighters Network

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz convincingly beat Kiko Martinez with a fifth-round stoppage in the main event of a Showtime Championship Boxing telecast Saturday night, and with the victory successfully defended his WBA featherweight title for the first time.

It didn’t look as though it would last as long as it did once the opening round materialized. Santa Cruz unraveled his fluid combinations from the jump, and a right hand stunned Martinez within the first 90 seconds of the fight for a knockdown. It was seemingly a flash knockdown, as Martinez quickly got up, but Santa Cruz sent him back to the mat with a more definitive right hand moments later.

The announced 7,780 at the Honda Center erupted, but the Spaniard dug deep and managed to survive the round.

It was apparent that Martinez was well conditioned in the second. The 29-year-old continued to come forward, and by the end of the round he managed to force Santa Cruz to fight off the back foot with his overhand rights and left hooks to the body. The night then morphed into an action-packed, toe-to-toe brawl in the third, and by the end of it Martinez had managed to bloody Santa Cruz’s nose.

Santa Cruz began to separate himself in the fourth with uppercuts shot from the hip through Martinez’s guard. His straight right hands did the same thing, and Martinez’s head started to snap backward more often toward the end of the round.

In the fateful fifth, Santa Cruz continued his momentum and Martinez started to get beat up once a right hand to the temple staggered him into the ropes. Santa Cruz knew he had his foe hurt and he let his hands go. Martinez, now shelled-up and helpless, couldn’t return any fire with Santa Cruz throwing so many punches. That’s when referee Raul Caiz stepped in at the 2:09 mark.

“In the fifth round I knew I had to finish him off and I did,” Santa Cruz said after the win. “He was ready and he brought it on. The fans love it when two fighters go toe-to-toe and that’s what we did tonight.”

Santa Cruz (32-0, 18 KOs), a three-division titleholder, also shed light on his future. “I’m up for anyone. I want a rematch with (Abner) Mares. I’m ready for whoever, whenever they are ready and when my team says I’m ready.”

That “whoever” could also include Carl Frampton, who defeated 122-pound rival Scott Quigg earlier the same night in Manchester.

“I want to thank Leo Santa Cruz for being a great fighter,” said Martinez (35-7, 26 KOs), who suffered his third consecutive loss in a title fight. “He was really game tonight. I feel alright. The second round I was getting looser and I was starting to fell much better.”

In the co-feature of the Showtime broadcast, Hugo Ruiz got his redemption over Julio Ceja by stopping him in the first round, becoming the new WBC junior featherweight titleholder in the process.

Within seconds of the opening bell, a big right hand from Ruiz caught Ceja’s chin flush. Ceja’s knee buckled as his weight sent him backward to the canvas, and after slowly getting up to beat referee Tom Taylor’s count he had a noticeable limp. Ceja elected to continue, but Ruiz quickly went back to work knowing he had a hurt opponent in front of him.

Ruiz (36-3, 32 KOs) let his hands go once action resumed, and his ambidextrous hooks came with bad intentions. Still hurt, and bothered by his leg, Ceja threw a prayer of a left hook that missed before bottling himself up. With Ceja now in his shell and stuck against the ropes, Ruiz whaled on him with power shots until Taylor waved it off 51 seconds into the opening round.

“I was very prepared to knock him out,” Ruiz said after the win, “but I was prepared to go 12 rounds tonight also if I had to. I was happy to knock him out in the first round.” The 29-year-old Mexican lost to his countryman last August via fifth-round knockout, and once the WBC junior featherweight title was around his waist, Ruiz couldn’t hide his emotions. “I’m looking for the best fighters and the best money out there,” Ruiz said of his future.

Ceja (30-2, 27 KOs) had to be taken out of the ring on a stretcher because of the injury, and it was learned after the fight he suffered a fractured right ankle. He too was emotional, and in serious pain. Tears could be seen flowing down his cheek as he was rolled out of the arena, but as he gave Ruiz another chance at the title, a rubber match would certainly be warranted for Ceja to get the belt back.


Michael “The Bounty” Hunter stopped Phil Williams in the first round to stay undefeated in what was a cruiserweight match scheduled for eight rounds. Hunter (11-0, 8 KOs), overwhelmed Williams with a flurry of power shots that eventually sent the southpaw to the canvas. After getting up, Williams (15-8-2, 14 KO’s) informed the referee that he no longer could continue, and the fight was waved off with 16 seconds left to go in the round.

Junior welterweight prospect Anthony Flores looked impressive in his knockout victory over Carlos Aguilera. Fighting out of nearby Inglewood, California, Flores (10-0, 6 KOs) sent Aguilera to the canvas in the second round and proceeded to beat him up afterward. Aguilera (10-16, 4 KOs) was outclassed, and in the fifth, referee Zac Young stepped in to stop the prolonged beating while Aguilera was still on his feet.

Rey Vargas stayed undefeated after dominating Christian Esquivel for three rounds. Esquivel’s corner was slow to throw in the towel, and because of that the beating went on for a few more seconds than it should have. Vargas (26-0, 21 KOs) looked impressive against the overmatched opponent and the win strengthens his record, but it won’t immediately get him into title contention in the 122-pound class. Esquivel (28-9, 21 KOs) has now lost five of his last six fights, and all of them have been by knockout.

Min Wook Kim shut out Alvaro Ortiz after eight rounds, receiving a score of 80-72 on all three ringside judges’ cards. Kim (15-1, 11 KOs), initiated the action with a bevy of punches and Ortiz couldn’t thwart the constant combinations coming from the South Korean. Ortiz (7-7, 5 KOs), was never visibly hurt by Kim, but the Mexican simply couldn’t match the offensive output. Kim, who is trained by Jose Santa Cruz, hasn’t lost a bout since being stopped in his pro debut.

Dominican junior lightweight Claudio Marrero dazzled Jonathan Arrellano for six rounds to earn the unanimous decision win. All three judges ringside turned in scorecards of 60-53. Marrero (20-1, 14 KOs), was sharp and exuded quick combinations from the southpaw stance with immense accuracy. The 26-year-old used just about every punch in the book and peppered Arrellano with power shots to the head and body. Arrellano (16-7-2, 4 KOs) was sent to the canvas in the third, and despite getting blanked on the cards didn’t give up even though he was outclassed.

Cerferino Rodriguez got a wide unanimous decision win over Edgar Riovalle (38-20-2, 27 KOs) in his American debut. All three judges ringside scored it 60-54 in favor of the 27-year-old welterweight from Spain. Rodriguez (21-1, 11 KOs) is managed by former middleweight champion, Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, who was in attendance. The fight wasn’t close by any stretch of the imagination, and given the record of his opponent, the fight was merely an introduction of Rodriguez to those stateside.

The younger brother of Leo, Antonio Santa Cruz, got a unanimous decision win over Jorge Perez in the opening bout of the TGB Promotions card. All three judges ringside scored it the same, 39-37, in favor of the 19-year-old. Santa Cruz (2-2, 1 KO), did a fine job of mixing up his attack to the body and head of Perez and cruised to victory as a result. Perez (2-1, 1 KO) lost for the first time in his young career in what was his American debut.



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