SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Santa Cruz wins easy but proves nothing in victory over Rivera

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Leo Santa Cruz won with ease Saturday night, taking care of Rafael Rivera en route to a wide unanimous decision victory at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. It was easy, but almost too easy, for the 30 year old Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KO,) who dominated the overmatched Rivera from the opening bell to close.

In round one Rivera (26-3-2, 17 KO) looked sharp early, trying to press the action to Santa Cruz. But Rivera couldn't continue at his frenetic pace, and quickly looked fatigued trying to keep up with the quicker, rangier Santa Cruz. All three judges scored the fight 119-109 for Santa Cruz. SportsMap.com also scored the fight 119-109 for Santa Cruz. With the victory Santa Cruz defended his WBA "Super" featherweight belt for third straight fight.

Rivera wasn't originally supposed to fight at all. He took the assignment on about three week's notice when Miguel Flores was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury. Despite the change in opponents, many boxing analysts felt that Rivera could potentially provide a tougher challenge for Santa Cruz that Flores. But Rivera looked smaller and less physically fit in the ring, After eating lots of clean straight punches throughout many rounds, Rivera's tactic seemed to be to try and steal rounds late by unleashing a flurry of punches in the waning moments. The tactic didn't work, as Santa Cruz was game for the late rallies and had already banked a win in the majority of the rounds anyway.

Santa Cruz, who hasn't been legitimately challenged since his back to back fights with Carl Frampton in 2016 and 2017, is in need of a major opponent to regain interest. Gary Russell holds the World Boxing Council's version of the featherweight title, and a unification of the two is long overdue. It would be an easy fight to make as well; both fighters are advised by Al Haymon.

FIGUEROA UNIMPRESSIVE IN DECISION VICTORY OVER MOLINA

Former super-prospect Omar Figueroa (28-0-1, 19 KO) earned a unanimous decision over veteran John Molina Jr. (30-8, 24 KO) in the co-feature bout of the evening. The judges scored the fight 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93 in favor of Figueroa. SportsMap.com scored the fight 96-94 for Figueroa.

Neither fighter seemed interested in any sort of defense throughout the bout. Both men looked content to stand on the inside and eat uppercuts and body shots while dishing out their own. Figueroa landed more punches, but Molina seemed to steal several rounds by landing a big, clean shot down the middle. Molina, who has lost five of his last seven fights, looked shopworn, showing little head movement or ability to fire off quick counterpunches. But Figueroa, who is seven years younger, didn't look much better. He attempted to force Molina to the ropes in order to unleash multi-punch combinations, but Molina was often able to punch his way out of trouble.

The fight was originally contracted at 140 pounds, but Figueroa missed weight badly. The day before Figueroa's team struck a deal with Molina to move the countracted weight to 146 pounds. It's the third straight junior welterweight bout for Figueroa in which he has failed to make weight.

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TEXANS HAVE ZERO DEPTH AT CORNER

Here's what Davante Adams' big day against the Texans really proved

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the season, Bradley Roby has been the sole bright spot playing for a secondary that has been subpar at best. He entered Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers trailing only Eric Murray for the most tackles as a defensive back, while owning the Houston Texans' only interception of the season.

During his media availability on Thursday, Roby spoke about having the Texans' confidence to trust him as the primary defender shadowing the opposing team's best receiver.

And with Davante Adams coming to NRG Stadium with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Roby had an opportunity to illustrate why Houston's coaching staff have so much faith in him.

Three plays into the game, Roby sustained a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon. In his absence, the Texans felt his importance competing with a depleted secondary.

Adams would go on to have a career day against the Texans. He recorded a career-best 196 receiving yards on 13-of-18 targets and two touchdowns — as the Packers handed the Texans a 35-20 loss on Sunday.

Had the Fort Worth native avoided the injury, would it have resulted in a victory for the Texans? Perhaps not. It is always hard for a team to come away victorious after going scoreless during the first half, but Roby would have limited the destruction caused by Adams. Rogers completed four deep passes where he recorded 28 or more yards, with Adams being the recipient of three.

Not only did Houston have to deal with the effects of not having their best corner shadow one of the league's premier receivers, but the team was not prepared to battle without Roby, according to Michael Thomas following the loss.

"When you lose your starting corner like that, it's going to affect [the team]," Thomas said. "Anytime you have to make adjustments. If you're not prepared, and you don't have the right mindset, then you're probably not going to get the right results you want. Maybe we could have done it a little sooner, but you definitely miss a guy like Roby. You plan on having your number one guy go against their number one guy all the time."

Roby's premature exit left the Texans with a gaping void to slowdown Rodgers and the Packers without two of their projected starting corners. Gareon Conley — who revived his career during the second half of last season — has yet to play a single snap for Houston in 2020 as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

Their lackluster performance on Sunday showcased the lack of depth and talent the Texans have in the secondary. And with the trade deadline a week away, it may be in the Texans' best interest to invest in a young defensive back they can build around in the future — especially considering the timetable on Conley's return remains unknown.

Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said on Monday that the team is hoping Roby's injury is short-term and hopes to have their top corner make his return following the bye.

At 1-6 on the year, all the Texans have left to play for is pride as they close out the remaining nine games of the season, and the best way is to prevent another receiver from recording nearly 200 yards in a single game.

For this vulnerable secondary, it is a feat easier said than done. And with the talents of Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, and A.J. Brown remaining on the schedule, it is only best for Roby to make his return to the field sooner rather than later.

"I take pride in it. It's an opportunity that not a lot of guys get throughout the league, and I'm thankful for that. Just to be able to go against the best and try my best for the team and see how I match up. I'm very thankful for that." — Roby.

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