Leo Santa Cruz vs. Rafael Rivera
|Date & Time||Saturday February 16, 2019, 10:00 PM (EST)|
Los Angeles, California
The Line: Santa Cruz -4980 / Rivera +3020 -- Over/Under:
Leo Santa Cruz and Rafael Rivera fight Saturday at the Microsoft Theater for the WBO Super World Featherweight Title.
Leo Santa Cruz enters this fight with a 35-1-1 record that includes 19 knockouts. Santa Cruz has won five of his last seven fights, and he’s coming off a June win over Abner Mares. Santa Cruz has now won three straight fights since his loss to Carl Frampton and will be defending his belt for a third straight fight. Santa Cruz was supposed to fight Miguel Flores for his title defense, but he pulled out due to an ankle injury he suffered in camp. Santa Cruz is coming off a dominating performance in which he landed 34 percent of his punches and dodged majority of the big shots from Mares. Santa Cruz is 30 years old, stands at 5’7”, has a 69 inch reach and an orthodox stance. Santa Cruz has some of the quicker hands in the sport and is one of the busiest workers, as he throws a ton of punches and is always coming forward, looking to be the aggressor at all times. In his last bout, Santa Cruz threw over 1,000 punches. Santa Cruz simply won’t be outworked in the ring, making it tough for him to lose a fight if it goes to the judges, and his only career loss was a majority decision. While known for his aggressive offense, Santa Cruz is also underrated defensively and does a wonderful job of slipping punches. You almost never see Santa Cruz take a clean shot from his opponent. This will be Santa Cruz’s 17th career fight in California.
Rafael Rivera enters this fight with a 26-2-2 record that includes 17 knockouts. Rivera has won six of his last eight fights, and he’s coming off an October win over Jose Ramos. Rivera is coming off an impressive first round knockout to snap a string of back-to-back losses, and this is clearly the biggest fight he’s had in his career. Rivera is a 24-year-old Mexican who stands at 5’7”, has a 66-inch reach and an orthodox stance. Rivera has fought some decent fighters such as Joet Gonzalez and Joseph Diaz, both of those fights resulted in losses. However, it’s important to note that Rivera outboxed Gonzalez on ESPN, so he should probably only have one loss on his resume. That was a true controversial split decision with Gonzalez winning the bout in his hometown, so politics as usual in this sport. With that said, Rivera is a solid counterpuncher who works well behind his jab and has a strong left hook. Rivera dodges punches nicely and clearly has some pop in his hands with three of his last four victories ending in a KO. Rivera is at his best when he’s dictating the pace and being the aggressor, and that’s something he’ll obviously have to do in this bout in order to have any chance of pulling off the massive upset. This will be Rivera’s second career fight in Los Angeles.
You can make a case that Rivera is a tougher opponent than Flores, so we have that going for us in terms of competitiveness. Rivera is solid and smart defensively, and while he’s fought some really subpar fighters with horrible chins, he’s got some pop that gives him a fighting chance. Rivera should be aggressive and take his chances offensively. With that said, Santa Cruz is easily the more polished boxer with quicker hands and has a three-inch reach advantage. Rivera is also taking this bout on quick notice, which doesn’t help either. We’ve seen how fights like this sometimes end, most recently last week with Gervonta Davis and Hugo Ruiz. Rivera is no pushover, but the odds are stacked against him in this bout.
Santa Cruz should win this fight by knockout.