Chris Avalos might not have been the best name featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz could have been facing on Saturday at StubHub Center in Carson, California, but the former world title contender fought his heart out.
However, Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KO’s), 29, a Mexico native fighting out of California, dominated the gutsy Avalos via eighth-round TKO to retain the WBA “Super” featherweight world title. The bout served as the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Fox Sports 1.
Avalos (27-6, 20 KO’s), 27, of Lancaster, California, was nearly stopped in the fourth-round after taking a series of hard right hands, but somehow survived. When referee Tom Taylor allowed the bout to continue, some media members were shocked, one even disturbed.
But the fight went on for a while longer as Santa Cruz, who exerted a tremendous amount of energy trying to knockout Avalos, gassed himself out, and had to take a breather for the next couple of rounds.
“I thought I had him in the fourth round. I gassed out a little bit, but I got my air back later,” Santa Cruz said. “I thought the ref was going to jump in during that round, but he let him continue.”
This was not the same Santa Cruz that thoroughly outboxed Carl Frampton to regain the WBA title in January. It was the crowd-pleasing boxer that tends to brawl and take punches while giving them back. In retrospect, Santa Cruz criticized his performance.
“I was fighting the wrong fight,” he admitted. “Once my dad told me how I could stop him easily, I boxed him more and got the stoppage.”
The victory potentially sets up a rematch with WBA “Regular” featherweight world champion Abner Mares, who looked impressive in a technical unanimous decision win over a tough Andres Gutierrez in the co-feature.