YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

For a small fighter, Leo Santa Cruz delivers big

Bantamweight beats Victor Zaleta at Staples Center to remain unbeaten in 23 bouts and fans would be wise to circle his next fight on a calendar.

November 10, 2012|Bill Dwyre
  • Leo Santa Cruz, shown after knocking out Eric Morel in September, remained unbeaten in 23 fights Saturday night at Staples Center after beating Victor Zaleta in a bantamweight brawl.
Leo Santa Cruz, shown after knocking out Eric Morel in September, remained… (Josh Hedges / Getty Images )

Homework for boxing fans: Write down the name Leo Santa Cruz. Then start looking for his next fight.

He is a Mexican-born resident of Los Angeles who, Saturday night at Staples Center, remained unbeaten in 23 fights. He beat a tough and game Victor Zaleta of El Paso in a bantamweight brawl that featured punchers appearing to carry considerable more weight and danger than the normal 118 pounders.

Santa Cruz won with a straight right to the face in the eighth round. By then, Zaleta had taken quite a beating and seemed to go down, not just with the right to the face, but under the totality of punches. When it ended, Santa Cruz had thrown 839 punches, connected with 342 and had more than three rounds to go to increase those numbers.

To his credit, or bad judgment, Zaleta hung in impressively.

Santa Cruz put him down with a punch to the liver — Santa Cruz has established a reputation as one of the more devastating body punchers in the game — in the fourth round. He did it again in the seventh, connecting to the body and staggering Zaleta, before following with a shot to the chin.

But Zaleta got up again, probably despite protests from his liver.

This was not a couple of little guys jabbing and dancing. It personified the characterization of the late Chico Corrales in his matches with Jose Luis Castillo.

"We were like magnates," Corrales said.

Santa Cruz and Zaleta started most rounds by coming together, leaning on each other and flailing away. And it continued like that most of the rest of the match. That style should have not been recommended for Zaleta and his camp. One of Santa Cruz's recent knockouts was on a body punch, where he finished Stephane Jamoye.

The first match after they turned on the Showtime cameras matched Alfredo Angula against Raul Casarez at 154 pounds.

Those watching at home who had decided to stop at the refrigerator missed it. Thank heavens for replays.

Angula, a veteran and former Mexican Olympian who lives in Los Angeles and who has the reputation as a boxer who will throw as many as 100 punches in a round, only needed a handful. They exchanged blows for about 30 seconds, and Angula even took a good shot from Casarez. But then, in one of those punches you only see in boxing movies, Angula unloaded a roundhouse left hook. It caught Casarez on the left chin and the fighter from Edinburg, Texas, went down like a folded ironing board just given a push.

That made Angula's record in the ring 21-2. His only losses have been against big-name fighters, Kermit Cintron and James Kirkland. After he fought Kirkland a year ago, he took on a bigger task — clearing himself of an immigration situation. He had been walking around with an expired work visa. He went to El Centro, turned himself in and was detained for seven months. He came to Los Angeles in August, signed up with Golden Boy Promotions and was given the Saturday night fight.

"Against Kirkland, I wasn't prepared," Angula said. "Tonight, I was.

"I had so much emotion in my walk-in that I almost cried. But I held it in."

He said he has gotten great help from new trainer Virgil Hunter, who also trains superstar Andre Ward.

"Virgil has stressed defense, not to get hit so much," Angula said.

Which certainly worked this time. In this case, the best defense was a great offense. Or in Angula's case, a devastating left hook.

Los Angeles Times Articles