Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz stops Victor Zaleta in ninth round of title defense

Leo Santa Cruz stopped challenger Victor Zaleta in the ninth round at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 10 to retain his IBF Bantamweight crown. It was a slugfest right from the get-go with both boxers going toe-to-toe in each and every round. The unbeaten Santa Cruz upped his record to 22-0-1 with 13 KOs with the victory while Victor Zaleta dropped to 20-3-1 with 10 KOs. The end came at the 1:42 mark of the ninth round.

Santa Cruz also decked the game and brave Zaleta during the fourth and seventh rounds with some brutal head and body shots. However, Zaleta just kept coming forward and attacking the champion throughout the fight, but didn’t have the power to slow Santa Cruz down. He went down from a wicked right hand to the head in the eighth and the referee wisely called an end to the contest.

It was one of the year’s most exciting bouts while it lasted though, but Zaleta was always at a slight disadvantage since he was moving up in weight for the fight. Santa Cruz, who was born in Mexico, but now fights out of Lincoln Heights, California, said Zaleta made it an exciting fight and he was blocking a lot of shots early on. He added that he just kept on working though and he eventually wore the challenger down by going to his body as well as his head.

Santa Cruz likes to slug it out with his opponents and that makes for exciting fights, but he could have been in some trouble if Zaleta, who fights out of El Paso Texas, carried a heavier punch. The two boxers had combined for 1,000 punches by the time the fight was just six rounds old. In the end, punch stat numbers showed that Santa Cruz threw 839 punches in just over eight rounds and landed 342 of them.

However, Zaleta hung in there as long as he could and landed more than his share of punches too. What the fight came down to though, was the effectiveness of Santa Cruz’s body punching. He’s known as one of the best body punchers in all of boxing and showed the fans why. He connected on several devastating liver shots that momentarily paralyzed his opponent. He would then follow up on those blows with some effective blows to the chin.

It was such an exciting and crowd-pleasing match that a rematch has already been talked about. However, it likely won’t happen since Santa Cruz would like to fight Abner Mares, who beat Enselmo Moreno by unanimous decision on the same card. That exciting showdown’s a possibility, but Mares said he’d rather take on Nonito Donaire than Santa Cruz. It was the fourth fight of the year for Santa Cruz and his management team hasn’t ruled out another bout before the year’s over.

Ian Palmer

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