LEO SANTA CRUZ defended his WBA featherweight world championship in convincing fashion on Saturday night, knocking down Kiko “Sensación” Martinez twice in the first round, then ending it on a barrage of punches as the fight was called at 2:09 in the fifth round in the main event of a Showtime championship boxing doubleheader at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
In the co-feature 29-year-old Hugo Ruiz (36-3, 31 KOs), Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, regained his WBC super-bantamweight World Title with a devastating early knockdown with just 51 seconds into the 12-round fight against 23-year-old Julio Ceja (30-2, 27 KOs) of Atizapan De Zaragoza, Mexico, in a highly anticipated rematch of their August fight won by Ceja.
Fighting just 10 miles west of his hometown of La Habra and before 7,780 enthusiastic fans, the 27-year-old Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) continued to establish himself as the King of Southern California as he punished the game 29-year-old Martinez (35-7, 26 KOs) of Alicante, Valencia, Spain, with 570 total punches in just five rounds. There were 1,038 total punches thrown during the fight.
“The fans love it when two fighters go toe-to-toe,” Santa Cruz said after the fight. “I wanted to give the fans a great fight. I knew I could hurt him with a right hand. He’s a fighter and when he’s knocked down, he’s going to come back. In the fifth round I knew I had to finish him off and I did.”
Santa Cruz continued, “We were going toe-to-toe from the beginning. He’s was throwing good punches I was throwing out good punches and the crowd was loving it. Then my dad told me to slow down and be smarter so we started boxing.”
Santa Cruz wasted no time getting the upper hand as the opening bell rung. He knocked Martinez out twice in the first round; the first just 23 seconds into the fight and the second on a devastating right hand two minutes into the round.
Martinez fell into a groove in the third and fourth rounds, but got into trouble two minutes into the fifth round as Santa Cruz had him up against the ropes connecting on numerous body shots, uppercuts and combinations before referee Raul Caiz Sr. signaled the end of the fight for Santa Cruz’s second straight world title defense in Southern California.
Martinez said that Santa Cruz, “started to move a lot and he broke my strategy and he fought a great fight. The second round I was getting looser and I was starting to feel much better.”
“He was like a bull coming forward really strong,” Santa Cruz added. “He has definitely been one of the strongest fighters I’ve been in the ring with yet.
“Towards the end I said, ‘this is it, this is my opportunity to take him down. If I don’t finish him right here, it’s going to make it a really tough fight.’ So I said I was going at it with my all and thankfully it turned out the way that it did.”
Santa Cruz, making his second defense after capturing the world title from Abner Mares back in August, said someday he wants to break the records for most punches thrown in a fight. “I wanted to throw as many punches as I can so the fans could get a good show.”
Santa Cruz is now eyeing a future potential matchup with IBF 122-pound world champion Carl Frampton at 126 pounds or Gary Russell. “I’m up for anyone,” he said. “I want the rematch with (Abner) Mares. Since Frampton won, if he’s ready to go up in weight, I’m ready for him. I challenge him to a fight whenever he’s ready.”
In a rematch of the WBC Super Bantamweight World Title he lost last August, the new 122-pound champion Ruiz improved his record to 5-0 in rematches (with five knockouts) as he delivered a stunning first-round knockout against Ceja, who injured his right ankle on a powerful clean right just seconds into the fight sending him to the canvas.
Ceja got up slowly but was battered with a fury of punches and knocked out again with just 51 seconds into the fight ending the affair.
“I was very prepared to knock him out, but I was prepared to go 12 rounds tonight also if I had to,” said Ruiz, who was teary and emotional following the victory. “I was happy to knock him out in the first round. I’m looking for the best fighters and the best money out there.”
Ceja, who beat Ruiz on a fifth-round knockout last August to win the world title, was hurt from the first series of Ruiz punches and never recovered in the intense first round.
Ceja was taken to nearby UC Irvine Hospital and diagnosed with a fractured right ankle.
“I saw that he got hurt with the first punch and I saw his leg wobbling and so I said, ‘Let’s finish’,” Ruiz said. “And I did in that round.”