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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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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