Boxing fireworks in Anaheim: Santa Cruz and Ruiz get quick KO wins

The show at the Honda Center put the nightly fireworks display at nearby Disneyland to shame.

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Leo Santa Cruz (right) dominated Kiko Martinez, winning with a fifth round stoppage in Anaheim Saturday. Photo: Cynthia Saldana, Saldana Photography for CommDigiNews
Leo Santa Cruz (right) dominated Kiko Martinez, winning with a fifth round stoppage in Anaheim Saturday. Photo: Cynthia Saldana, Saldana Photography for CommDigiNews

SAN DIEGO, February 28, 2016 – Featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) of Los Angeles thrilled his hometown fans scoring two quick knockdowns in round one on the way to a fifth round TKO against former champion Kiko Martinez (35-7, 26 KOs) of Spain.

Santa Cruz showed his win over Abner Mares was no fluke. Santa Cruz now holds a legitimate place as one of the best fighters in his division who is as fan friendly as he is skilled, a winning combination.

Santa Cruz put Martinez down on two rights in the fight round, the first above the ear to the head, and the second a textbook straight right set up by a left hook. It looked like it would be over right there. But Martinez is in excellent condition, as he would show by lasting several more rounds while taking a lot of punishment.

Martinez did what he could to fire back, and he did hit Santa Cruz hard several times, enough to give him a bloody nose by the third round. It was that kind of fight.

Bombs away in Anaheim: Leo Santa Cruz and Kiko Martinez put on a show worthy of Walt Disney himself. Photo: Stephanie Trapp, Showtime
Bombs away in Anaheim: Leo Santa Cruz and Kiko Martinez put on a show worthy of Walt Disney himself. Photo: Stephanie Trapp, Showtime

The pair kept trading, and they seemed to take a little breather in the fourth round. It was all Santa Cruz needed. His height and reach advantage coupled with his aggression and accuracy was just too much for Martinez. It was time to close the show. Santa Cruz came at Martinez mixing up combinations of punches, and halfway through the round he landed multiple punches to Martinez’ head and kept on coming. Refereee Raul Caiz Sr. gave Martinez every chance possible to respond and survive the round, but it wasn’t going to happen. Caiz stoped the fight at 2:09 of the fifth round, to the delight of the 7,780 partisan fans at the Honda Center in Anaheim.


READ MORE: Crawford, Verdejo get expected victories in New York Saturday


Compare the stats in this fight to today’s earlier super bantamweight fight in Manchester, England: Santa Cruz alone threw 140 punches in Round 1, almost as many as winner Carl Frampton through four rounds and Scott Quigg through eight rounds. Santa Cruz landed a total of 234 punches out of 570 thrown (41 percent); Martinez landed 74 of 468 punches (16 percent). Santa Cruz landed 190 power punches against just 54 for Martinez, a 55 percent connect rate for the winner.

Santa Cruz was grinning ear to ear after the fight speaking about it with the boxing media. “He was ready and he brought it on. The fans love it when two fighters go toe-to-toe and that’s what we did tonight. I wanted to give the fans a great fight. We went toe-to-toe, and he’s a tough fighter,” said Santa Cruz.

Leo Santa Cruz has plenty of good options for his next bout. How about Gary Russell Jr., or Carl Frampton? Photo: Courtesy Premier Boxing
Leo Santa Cruz has plenty of good options for his next bout. How about Gary Russell Jr., or Carl Frampton? Photo: Courtesy Premier Boxing

Santa Cruz described Martinez being as strong as a bull. “In the fifth round, I knew I had to finish him off, and I did … he’s a fighter and when he’s knocked down he going to come back.”

Martinez thanked Santa Cruz for the fight, saying he was “really game tonight … He started to move a lot, and he broke my strategy and he fought a great fight.” This was only the second fight at super bantamweight for Martinez, who may want to move back down for future bouts.

A happy Leo Santa Cruz speaks with boxing media immediately after his victory Saturday. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News
A happy Leo Santa Cruz speaks with boxing media immediately after his victory Saturday. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News

Santa Cruz said he wanted to throw as many punches as he could to give the fans a show, and that he did. Who’s next on his wish list? “I’m up for anyone. I want the rematch with (Abner) Mares. I’m ready for whoever whenever they are ready and when my teams says I’m ready.” Santa Cruz also named Carl Frampton, the winner earlier today over Scott Quigg, along with Gary Russell Jr. Russell has a bout with Jhonny Gonzalez on March 28. If the flashy technician Russell wins over the banger Gonzalez, it’s a fight that can and should be made.

Before his rematch Saturday against Julio Ceja, Hugo Ruiz promised he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again that cost him the first fight. Ruiz (36-3, 32 KOs) delivered on his promise in a big way, scoring a swift first round knockdown against Ceja (30-2, 27 KOs), then moving in aggressively to close the show with a first round stoppage.

Ruiz caught Ceja with a perfect straight right counterpunch as Ceja missed with an opening jab. As Ceja got up, he wobbled and it would only be a matter of time. Ruiz moved in and hit Ceja with a flurry of punches. Ceja was in no condition to fight back and referee Thomas Taylor called it at 51 seconds of the first round.

Ruiz landed 10 of 27 total punches thrown; all 10 were power punches. Ceja landed a single punch of 12 thrown.

Ceja suffered a leg injury in the knockdown; initially believed to be dislocated knee, Ceja was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the arena to be examined and treated. It turned out to be a fractured right ankle.

Ruiz said before the bout he knew he let the first one get away when he failed to put enough pressure on Ceja after knocking him down. Ruiz didn’t make the same mistake twice. He promised to be more aggressive and he got his chance to execute his game plan a little earlier than expected, to perfection.

“I was very prepared to knock him out, but I was prepared to go 12 rounds tonight also if I had to,” said Ruiz. “I was happy to knock him out in the first round. We came very prepared for this fight. Ceja is a very good fighter and I know he’ll come back.”

Ruiz becomes the new WBC Super Bantamweight champion. Who would he like to fight next? Ruiz says he wants the best names and the best money. Before he faces one of the bigger names in the division like Guillermo Rigondeaux or Danny Garcia, Saturday’s result coupled with the first fight cries out for a trilogy.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News when quoting from or linking to this story. 

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