Staples Center, Los Angeles, Aug. 29
By Peter Lim
One would be hard-pressed to find a matchup as even as this one. Both have proven their mettle as well-rounded, blue-chip pugilists in winning world titles in the 118- and 122-pound divisions. And while Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs) is undefeated and Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) is not, Mares has faced a higher caliber of opponents by far.
Mares, 29, has fought and defeated quality fighters the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko (twice), Eric Morel and Daniel Ponce De Leon (twice); Santa Cruz's best opponent, on the other hand, was a faded Christian Mijares who had left his prime behind him in the 115-pound division. Ultimately, Mares' big-fight experience will tip the balance of the fight.
The more aggressive Santa Cruz, 27, will have the edge in the early rounds by relentlessly pressing the action. But Mares figures out his attack by rounds four and five and begins to sidestep and counter with precision and poise. Mares simply adjusts more effectively to Santa Cruz's style than vice-versa down the stretch to win a close but unanimous decision in the 116-112 to 115-113 range.
Santa Cruz's win snapped my 16-fight winning streak, but hey, it was a great fight so I can't really complain. Everything unfurled the way I predicted only with the roles reversed. Kudos to Santa Cruz for stepping up his game.