Sports

Leo Santa Cruz retains WBA featherweight title with TKO of Kiko Martinez

Leo Santa Cruz had a simple plan to make his first World Boxing Assn. featherweight title defense successful.

Throw punches. Lots of them.

"I got carried away. I wanted to go toe to toe," Santa Cruz said Saturday night after his fifth-round technical knockout of Spain's Kiko Martinez at Honda Center.

"I wanted to please the fans, to make it a war. … I was tired, but I was going to finish it."

The Los Angeles-raised Santa Cruz unleashed 142 punches in the first round, 570 overall and more than 40 after cornering Martinez in the fifth round to win by a stoppage that came at 2 minutes 9 seconds.

Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 knockouts) twice dropped former super-bantamweight champion Martinez (35-7) in the first round with right hands, and said he was "really close" to finishing the challenger.

"I was catching him with good punches, he was catching me with some punches (74 of 468, according to CompuBox) and we were pleasing the fans," Santa Cruz said. "Then my dad told me to be smart and move, and I started boxing."

The champion's precision shots with both hands, along with effective uppercuts, tested the endurance of Martinez, who impressively survived until the fifth round, when Santa Cruz's assault extended onto side ropes, with referee Raul Caiz Sr. leaning in closely to consider the stoppage.

Santa Cruz's onslaught of rights and lefts to the head turned Martinez defenseless and Caiz halted the action in front of 7,780.

Santa Cruz said the performance was a testament to his dedication to fitness, getting Martinez to concede "he was really game."

The victory furthers the 27-year-old's cause to demand greater challenges, and the one Santa Cruz said he wants most is fighting Ireland's Carl Frampton, who added the WBA super-bantamweight title to his International Boxing Federation belt by defeating England's Scott Quigg by split decision Saturday at Manchester, England.

"[Frampton] wants to move up [to 126 pounds] and I'm ready for him to come and fight me," Santa Cruz said. "He's a tough fighter. He's one of the best."

In the co-main event, Mexico's Hugo Ruiz needed only 51 seconds to avenge his knockout loss to countryman Julio Ceja six months earlier in Staples Center.

Ruiz defeated Ceja in a technical knockout to win the World Boxing Council super-bantamweight belt.

Ruiz (36-3, 32 KOs) ducked a punch toward his head, then blasted Ceja with a right hand to the jaw, causing Ceja's eyes to roll and hurt himself while falling.

After getting upright, a hobbled Ceja was unable to escape the barrage of 14 punches that Ruiz launched, forcing referee Thomas Taylor to stop the bout.

A ringside doctor reported afterward that Ceja appeared to seriously injure his right ankle. Ceja (30-2) was taken out of the ring on a stretcher.

Ceja said before the bout that he expected Ruiz to box and pursue an elusive path to victory by decision after getting stopped in the fifth round in August.

"I was very prepared to knock him out. ... I was happy to knock him out in the first round," Ruiz said. "We came very prepared for this fight. Ceja is a very good fighter and I know he'll come back."

Ruiz is an outside candidate to fight Santa Cruz next and said he's looking for the "best fighters and the best money out there."

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 28, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Santa Cruz retains title - L.A. boxer beats Spain's Martinez in a fifth-round TKO in a World Boxing Assn. featherweight bout." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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