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Boxing News, January 12, 2007

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Santa Cruz Survives Fright
Entertaining Lighweight Gets Back on the Right Road



If lightweight Jose Armando Santa Cruz was expecting a gimme against Luis Arceo on Telefutura’s inaugural card of 2007, it must’ve been a rude awakening when he got dropped hard at the end of the first with a murderous right hand. 

Right before the 10-second warning ending the round, Arceo made the perfect connection to Santa Cruz’s jaw. The favored man fell back on his bum with his legs splayed in front of him.  When he tried to get up, he fell back again but had the wherewithal to look to his corner for counsel. They told him to take the count and stand at nine, which he did.

For Arceo, who had been on a three-fight losing streak, this was the biggest vote of confidence he’s had in a while. Santa Cruz is a good name and a gutsy warrior, but might have been feeling shaky himself, having been stopped in his last fight against David Diaz.

But the upset wasn’t to be. Santa Cruz came out angry in the second and established an edge over Arceo that he maintained for most of the remaining rounds.  There were no more big moments, just a lot of trading, with enough Santa Cruz’s landing flush to give him rounds. The fans at New Mexico’s Dickerson’s Event Center, who were so primed after the first, were lulled into a decidedly mellower state. Cruz won a 10-round UD decision by scores of 91-98, 93-96 and 92-97.  Santa Cruz goes to 24-2 (13) and Arceo drops to 19-5-2 (13).

Santa Cruz hails from Michoacan, Mexico, but fights out of Los Angeles. He’s one of a number of Mexican fighters in Rudy Hernandez’s stable. They get some of the best sparring in the world, which forgers a certain toughness, pride and ring generalship.

At 5’10’’ with a 74’’ reach, Cruz has a huge, rangy frame. But he doesn’t like to play it safe on the outside. He bangs in close.  He throws looping arm-punches—that aren’t especially fast or hard—but they catch guys at odd angles, and come with great frequency.

It’s not the smartest style and leaves him vulnerable, but his fans are appreciative.  He and Edner Cherry made for some beautiful TV in February, 2006. With the right opponent, he’d be perfect for Boxing After Dark. Unfortunately, Arceo is not that dancing partner I’m thing of.  While he was game and always seemed in the fight, he never came close to turning the tide.

Jnr. welter Robert Frankel is a tough, hard-luck journeyman that apparently has a too-solid grip on reality. He didn’t bat an eye when he lost an eight-round UD to Noel Rodriguez by scores of 77-75, 79-73 and 78-74.

Maybe, maybe you could’ve given Noel a razor-thin SD.  I had Frankel winning by a couple rounds. The Denver native might not transcend tough opponent status, but he’s better than his now 18-6 (3) record suggests.

I first saw him against Dmitriy Salita a year ago in New York.  He sent the hometown kid down on his tail in the first, and for much of the fight took the fight to the “Kosher Kid,” as far as I could see. The judges saw a different fight, and Frankel lost a UD by fairly broad scores. He seemed more pissed off when the scores were announced that night than in this last outing. Life grounds you down, I guess.

The southpaw Rodriguez was said to have lost 16 pounds in the two days leading up to the fight.  It showed. He was lethargic and did most of the holding in the later rounds.  Frankel, alternating between righty to lefty throughout, had no trouble finding Rodriguez’s face when he threw straight rights. Minus the knockdown, I saw it much the way I did when he fought Salita.

But the Texan Rodriguez is 11-1 (5) and a mere 21 years old. Presumably, there are higher expectations for him.  Me, I’m partial toward the gritty underdog Frankel.




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