The trio of undercard fights supporting the Spence vs. Crawford pay-per-view broadcast offered a buffet of outcomes for fight fans.
Cruz Wins Suprise Split Decision
Issac “Pitbull” Cruz was expected to prevail over challenger Giovani Cabrerar. But he wasn't supposed to win by a split-decision squeaker.
After 12 frustrating rounds, Cruz got the split decision victory. Don Trella scored it 114-113 for Cruz; Glen Feldman scored it 114-113 for Cabrera, with Benoit Roussel being the difference maker, 115-112 for Cruz.
Asked about the score, Cruz shrugged it off. “The judges have their own thinking. But he didn't connect with any punches.”
It was an ugly, grinding fight.
The much taller Cabrera looked like a colt unsteady on its legs, backing up from Cruz. He was content to stay on the move, with not a lot of early action. Eventually, Cruz caught up, and started landing power punches. Cabrera offered what offense he could, but he only had so much to offer. His best asset turned out to be a granite chin. Cruz landed plenty of hard shots; Cabrera didn't so much as wobble.
In the sixth round, Cruz struck gold with a right hook on the button, another to the body, and back to the head. Cabrera has the resilience of youth and took the punches well. Cruz continued to bounce shots of the game but outgunned Cabrera.
In the seventh round, fans saw more give and take. If Cabrera was going to go down, he decided to go down swinging. Referee Thomas Taylor deducted a point from Cruz for leading with his head in round eight. It's hard not to do so when Cruz is at a six-inch height disadvantage.
The fight dragged on to the conclusion, with Cabrara leaping into the air at the sound of the final bell, a moral victory going 12 rounds with Cruz.
“I do respect all of my opponents and he was very good today,” said Cruz. He was frustrating a little bit.”
Cabrara said after the fight of his performance, “I waited a little too long waiting to see how much he had. Then I started turning up my punches when I saw that was all he had. I thought I took control at the end of the fight, but I don't make any excuses.
“I showed that I can go toe-to-toe with a feared puncher. I think I went even more toe-to-toe with him than Gervonta did.”
Will Davis Cruz 2 Happen?
The fight had one goal: setting up a rematch for Isaac Cruz against Gervonta “Tank” Davis. Cruz gave Davis his toughest challenge in their first matchup in December 2021. But after the lackluster performance which was widely panned by the fans and fighters from Devin Haney to Dusty Harrison, will anyone want to see it?
At the conclusion of the fight, Cruz was informed that Ryan Garcia was calling him out on Twitter, and he said he'd be open to such a fight “if the people want it.”
Santiago Wins Emotional Victory Over Disappointed Donaire
Coming out to his own ring walk song praising the virtues of the “Filipino Flash,” Nonito Donaire hoped to break his own record as the oldest bantamweight champion in boxing history and the current oldest title holder.
It wasn’t to be. The ringwalk entrance was the highlight of the evening for Donaire. Opponent Alexandro Santiago of Tijuana was the busier, more effective puncher, winning a lopsided decision of the judges’ scorecards over a sluggish Donaire to become the WBC World Bantamweight champion. Scores were 116-112 twice and 115-113. Donaire embraced the tearful Santiago upon hearing the decision.
Santiago, a new father whose son was born just days ago, called it an honor to fight the legendary Donaire. “It’s so hard to explain this moment. All the work we put in for this moment. It’s great just to win this title.
“We were very focused in training camp, we tried to find the errors and that’s what we capitalized on tonight.”
A disappointed Donaire didn’t disagree. “It’s a blessing to do this for a very, very long time. Alexandro deserved it.” Donaire said he congratulated Santiago and told him “You have something for your kids now.”
“I love the sport so much. I told my wife who has the word whether I have it or not. I felt good, I just didn’t pull the trigger That was my biggest problem.”
Santiago started with plenty of energy and kept it up all 12 rounds. He began by peppering Donaire with snappy jabs at a cautious distance. Through the first third of the fight, Santiago carefully closed the distance. Donaire was returning single punches, with Santiago looking to avoid Donaire’s deadly left hook. Donaire began to land it more effectively, but he simply wasn’t throwing it enough. It was the narrative that played out through all 12 rounds.
The lack of output hung over Donaire’s head like a dark cloud. Santiago gained confidence round by round, throwing more combinations. While he wasn’t always landing a lot of the punches, the judges could see the Mexican’s work rate, and his activity alone was neutralizing Donaire.
Santiago suffered a cut over the left eye due to a headbutt in the seventh round, and another over the right eye a round later, but neither one affected the fight.
Santiago thanked his mother and father after the fight for always supporting his dreams, “and especially my son, who was born just a few days ago, and everyone involved helping me win this fight,” drawing warm applause from the fans.
Asked by Showtime’s Jim Gray whether his performance could be blamed on age, Donaire quickly said, “Hell no to that! I was trying to counter so much and put so much power into it. I tried to fight like a warrior, which was something we didn’t train.”
Donaire said his wife and trainer Rachel will have the word “whether I have it or not. I gave it all, I appreciate you all.”
After his knockout loss in two rounds to Naoya Inoue (and no shame in it), Nonito Donaire could have called it a career. He is without a doubt a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee. But Donaire still has the drive to test himself and set records. He should be admired despite falling short at age 40.
Tellez Wins Brief Firefight With Garcia
The pay-per-view card started with a bang courtesy of Yoenis Tellez of Cuba (6-0, 5 KOs). Facing veteran Sergio Garcia of Spain (34-3, 14 KOs), Tellez showed no fear, coming straight at Garcia, who was willing to engage and make it a firefight. Game on.
In the third round, Garcia was firing off combination punches to the head when Tellez timed a hard shot right in between, catching Garcia and throwing him off balance. Tellez followed up and send Garcia straight backward onto the canvas. Garcia got up, and Tellez didn't let him off the hook, blasting away until referee Robert Hoyle stepped in, ending the first at 2:02 of the third round.
Tellez credited trainer Ronnie Shields and the entire team for the win. “We worked on that right. It came out the way it was supposed to come out.,” said Tellez, adding the finish “was the assassin instinct that us Cubans have. As soon as I saw it was time to get rid of him, I went for it.” The 23-year-old Tellez said his goal “is to face the best 154-pounders out there.”
Garcia was understandably disappointed his night ended so early. “I told the ref that I could keep going, but I guess that’s his job and they are there to stop the fight when they feel it’s right,” said Garcia.
“My goal was to feel him out, and I didn’t get the opportunity to do so. He got me with a good shot and screwed the fight up for me. As a fighter, I’m always going to want to continue and persevere. I want to say I’m sorry to all the fans. I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way.”
Tellez landed 55 of 178 total punches, against 26 of 163 for Garcia, with 34 power punches (41%). Tellez also landed 15 body shots, Garcia just six.