The co-feature at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night saw former sparring partners Daniel Ponce de Leon, 44-5 (35), and Abner Mares, 26-0-1 (14), meet for Mares’ WBC featherweight title. Interestingly enough, both fighters share the same manager in Frank Espinoza, who earned both men career-high paydays believed to be in the region of $375,000 a piece. Simply put, Mares’ better technique paid dividends. While Ponce de Leon had his moments, Mares’ class proved too much, dropping his opponent with a monster left hook late in the second round. Both continued to have success but surprisingly, the puncher turned out to be Mares, whose crisper shots hurt Ponce de Leon several times before finally landing a crunching left hook. To his credit, Ponce de Leon rose but the barrage of punches in the follow-up compelled referee Jay Nady to intervene at 2.20 of the ninth round. Ponce de Leon threw 475 punches while Mares threw 387. That said, Mares landed at a 40% clip.
One of 2012’s biggest success stories was Leo Santa Cruz who won the IBF bantamweight title, making three defences in total before getting a well-deserved rest from the ring. His return saw him abandon his 118-pound title to step up to 122 where he met two-time super flyweight champion Alexander Munoz. The fan-friendly Santa Cruz got straight back into the groove, throwing countless punches, buzzing his undersized foe in the opening round. By the third, Santa Cruz was in complete control, pushing around his weary Venezuelan foe, dropping him late in the third round. To his credit, the proud former champion hung in there but took a beating from the human windmill until finally getting dropped into the ropes in the fifth round. Munoz’s trainer entered the ring requesting the fight to be stopped with referee Vic Drakulich in agreement at 1.05 of the fifth. With the win, Santa Cruz moved to 24-0-1 (14) while Munoz, who lost for the first time inside the distance, drops to 36-5 (28).
Both Gabe Rosado and J’Leon Love entered their NABF middleweight title showdown with heavy hearts. Love’s brother had been tragically killed in Detroit while Rosado’s stepfather also passed away. Despite this, after a slow start, where both looked to feel the other out, the action progressed with Love getting on the back foot and Rosado pressuring him. By the fourth, Love elected to stand and lets his hands go more, though Rosado got the better of things, landing several useful combinations. Deep in the sixth inning as the klaxon sounded, Rosado landed a wicked looking right cross, dropping Love to the seat of his pants. Love rose as the bell sounded and headed back to his corner. Rosado looked to push the action in the seventh as his strength advantage became apparent. By the eighth, Love stood in the pocket more than previously, landing a smooth right cross that moved Rosado in a good round for Love. The ninth was a total reversal with Love pressing and Rosado backing away. In the final minute of the round, Love landed a great looking shot to the body that seemed to awaken Rosado from a mini-slumber as he pushed Love back, buzzing him on two occasions. In the end, the three people who mattered most, namely Herb Santos and Dave Moretti, saw the bout for Love with scores of 97-92 and 95-94, respectively, whilst Glenn Trowbridge gave it to Rosado, 95-94. Both fighters embraced each other at the end despite the previous bad blood. The crowd certainly favoured Rosado, loudly booing the decision.
In super middleweight action, Ronald Gavril, 4-0 (3), stopped Roberto Yong, 5-7-2 (4), in the third round.
Super middleweight Luis Arias showed a wide array of punches but was unable to take the game DonYil Livingston, 8-3-1 (4), out of there in a step-up fight for the young Floyd Mayweather protégé. In the end, Arias settled for a majority decision via scores of 57-57, 58-56 and 58-55. Arias, 5-0 (3), was a big amateur and now a pro to keep an eye on.
Swedish-born super middleweight Badou Jack stayed unbeaten, stopping Michael Gbenga at 2.26 of the third round. The win moved Jack, 29, to 14-0 (10) while Gbenga dropped to 16-8 (16).
Lanell Bellows, 4-0-1 (4), opened the show with a stoppage of Matt Garretson, 2-1 (1), in the fourth and final round.