Esparragoza Stops Cruz in 12th to Take Title

United Press International

Antonio Esparragoza of Venezuela knocked down Steve Cruz twice in the 12th round Friday night and scored a technical knockout to win the World Boxing Assn. featherweight title.

Esparragoza (25-1-3) battered the champion to the canvas with a left-right combination nearing the close of the round. Cruz (27-2) rose after a count of eight, and the two slugged in the center of the ring before the challenger again connected with a left-right that sent Cruz down a second time.

Before Cruz could get to his feet, referee Ishmael Fernandez of Puerto Rico stopped the fight at 2:48 of the round.

Esparragoza, 28, of Caracas has 18 knockouts. Cruz, 23, who was making his first title defense since winning a 15-round decision over Ireland's Barry McGuigan last June, appeared to have a slight edge entering the 12th round.

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