By Jason Pribila: The PBC on FOX returned on Saturday night from Los Angeles, CA. For the third time in the last two months they had to scramble to find a late replacement for their main event.
By Jason Pribila: The PBC on FOX returned on Saturday night from Los Angeles, CA. For the third time in the last two months they had to scramble to find a late replacement for their main event. On this evening Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KO)entered the ring in a showcase fight defending his WBA featherweight title against late replacement Rafael Rivera (26-3-2, 17 KO). Santa Cruz is looking for big fights in 2019, but he first needed to take care of the game, but over-matched Rivera.
Santa Cruz was originally supposed to face Miguel Flores, who was forced to withdraw due to an ankle injury.
Santa Cruz, who is always respectful of his opponents mentioned prior to the fight that Rivera was a very good counter-puncher. When facing a volume puncher like Santa Cruz, there will always be plenty of punches to counter.
Rivera came out aggressively in the opening round. Santa Cruz caught most of the punches with his gloves, and he himself began countering his foe.
Santa Cruz picked up the pace in the second round and began landing thudding body shots against Rivera, and the champion never looked back.
Santa Cruz is the rare volume puncher that also excels on defense. He used his accurate jab and body punches to pull away from Rivera in round four.
The crowd was appreciated the effort of Rivera, even though It was tough to find a round that he won. Santa Cruz was a naturally bigger man, and he was never fazed by anything that Rivera was able to land.
Santa Cruz controlled the pace down the stretch and there was little drama when all three judges handed in scores of 119 – 109.
Santa Cruz is now looking for a title unification. If a unification bout can’t be made he discussed a possible third fight with Carl Frampton, which seems unlikely after Frampton lost his latest fight. He also mentioned moving up to face Geovanta Davis at junior lightweight. It is going to take a special fighter to defeat Santa Cruz, but on an evening where he averaged over 100 punches per round against a smaller foe, I feel that he should remain at featherweight.
Figueroa vs Molina
The PBC on FOX returned on Saturday night from Los Angeles, CA. For the third time in the last two months they had to scramble to find a late replacement for their main event. Fortunately, on this evening they had a can’t miss co-feature between Omar Figueroa Jr. (28-0-1, 19 KO) against John Molina Jr. (30-8, 24 KO).
Not only do the fighters have styles that were made for exciting television, but the fact neither fighter fought in 2018 made it critical that their 2019 got off to a successful start.
Figueroa has been out of the ring since July 2017, when he was seen dominating and stopping Robert Guerrero. A DUI arrest led to his lengthy time away from the ring. Molina was scheduled to face Victor Ortiz, but that bout was canceled due to Ortiz being arrested on a domestic violence charge.
The bout was a slugfest from the opening bell. Each fighter had their moments and the momentum shifted not only round to round but also big punch by big punch. Figueroa is a pressure fighter, and he did not disappoint. He walked through Molina right hands in order to land left hooks to the body.
Figueroa was the busier fighter, but Molina seemed to land the showier punches. Unfortunately for Molina, he was facing a guy with a granite chin. Figueroa was caught smiling several times after eating the type of punches that Molina has used to drop previous opponents.
During the prefight back and forth Figueroa stated that Molina would not make it passed round six. Molina was not only standing, but he was giving as well as he was receiving all the way until the final bell.
While there were several close rounds, the decision should have come down to whether or not the judges preferred the pressure of Figueroa of the flashier punches of Molina.
Unfortunately for Molina and the fight fans that tuned into this nationally televised bout, the judges filled out their cards prior to the opening bell. Figueroa was given awarded a Unanimous Decision. He fought well and never flinched despite walking through thunder. However, neither fighter should have been given credit for winning 7 to 9 rounds. Figueroa was given exactly that when Jimmy Lennon Jr. read scores of: 97-93, 98-92, and 99-91.
Figueroa will be a player in a deep welterweight division. Fortunately for him, many of the top fighters in the division are also fighting under the PBC banner. He will need to dedicate himself to come into the ring in a bit better shape and fight much crisper than he did on this night if he is going to upset the likes of Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, or Keith Thurman.
Molina remains an honest fighter that will always be a tough out as a B-side. Unfortunately, he has now lost 7 of his last 13 fights and he will be firmly entrenched as a gatekeeper for as long as he chooses to continue to lace up his gloves.
The televised undercard featured a pair of undefeated super welterweights. Sebastian Fundora (12-0, 8 KO) used his 6’7” frame and high punch output to outwork and outland Donnie Marshall (10-1, 6KO).
Fundora landed clean punches throughout the fight, and scored a knockdown in the third round with a clean left uppercut as Marshall was standing up from a crouch. Marshall beat the count, but he was visibly hurt. Fundora attacked patiently landing uppercuts and straight right hands. When Marshall was no longer able to return fire the fight was waved off at 1:08 of round three.
Fundora landed 106 of 274 total punches, and 77 of 183 power punches for an impressive 42%.
If Fundora could tighten up his defense, and continue to improve at using his height effectively he will be a prospect to watch in a deep division. We will no doubt be able to witness his progress, and he is sure to get another television date soon.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com