Leo Santa Cruz weighs in ahead of his IBF bantamweight title fight. Santa… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
Leo Santa Cruz's fifth fight of the year and third in four months made the return of boxing to network television Saturday a closer battle than anticipated.
Santa Cruz, complaining of breathing problems and a sore right hand injured in sparring, defended his International Boxing Federation bantamweight title for the third time by going the distance against Mexico's Alberto Guevara and winning a 116-112, 118-110, 119-109 unanimous decision at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Lincoln Heights' Santa Cruz (23-0-1) had won 11 of his previous 12 fights by knockout.
"Usually, I throw more body shots, but I couldn't because he was running," Santa Cruz said. "I've been fighting a lot lately and haven't given myself time to rest."
Yet, Santa Cruz and Guevara (16-1) both jumped at the opportunity on short notice to participate in the first Saturday afternoon boxing card on CBS in more than 15 years.
Santa Cruz's power advantage was met by a game boxer-counterpuncher who kept the bout separated by one point on two judges' cards after five rounds.
"I was very tough for him," Guevara said.
Santa Cruz wobbled and forced Guevara backward with hard right hands in the third round, and Guevara said he was hurt in a fifth-round pounding.
By the 10th, after stinging Guevara with more rights, Santa Cruz converted to a southpaw stance because of the hand pain.
He iced the decision with a furious attack of left hands and combinations in the 12th. Punch stats showed Santa Cruz out-landed Guevara, 291-158.
The afternoon portion of the card also included the professional debut of South El Monte's 2012 U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr., who knocked down opponent Vicente Alfaro (5-3) once in the fourth round en route to a 40-35 unanimous decision on all three cards.
Diaz, 20, flashed a good left in the junior-featherweight bout, and said he relished making the debut in Los Angeles.
"I've got to get my timing down as a pro, but this was great, and I hope to be back in January or February," Diaz said.
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