By Peter Lim
Santa Cruz won a majority decision in 2015 in a fight so close it could have gone either way. Two things have transpired to tip the balance in Santa Cruz’s favor since then.
First, Santa Cruz has grown more due to a higher level of activity against a higher level of opposition. He fought four times, two against a fellow top-5 featherweight since their first encounter. Mares, on the other hand fought just twice during that same period.
Second, Santa Cruz has proven the propensity to learn from his mistakes and make the right adjustments in a rematch. He avenged his loss to Carl Frampton by fine tuning his strategy to turn the tables on Frampton when the met for a second time.
Santa Cruz is a tad smarter and sharper than Mares and makes the better decisions. He prudently picks his moments, out-boxing Mares when Mares opts to brawl and out-brawling Mares when Mares opts to box, winning a close but clear-cut decision in the 116-112 range.