- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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LAS VEGAS -- In his first two featherweight title defenses, Steven Luevano won lopsided decisions against Antonio Davis and Terdsak Jandaeng. But in his third defense on Saturday night's David Diaz-Manny Pacquiao undercard at Mandalay Bay Events Center, Luevano had his hands full with Mario Santiago.
In a back-and-forth fight, however, Luevano retained his 126-pound belt via split draw.
Judge Harry Davis scored it 117-111 for Luevano, Duane Ford had it 115-113 for Santiago and Dave Moretti had it 114-114. ESPN.com also had it 114-114.
"The guy had a good jab and he really controlled the early part of the fight, but I felt I was the stronger guy in the second half," Luevano, 27, said. "He tried to take me out early and I felt I was going to be stronger toward the end of the fight and I was. I'm still champion but the record book should say 'W' instead of 'D.' "
Santiago seemed to be the stronger of the two but Luevano seemed to have more energy as the fight got into the late rounds. Still, Santiago, 29, of Puerto Rico, thought he deserved the decision.
"I felt I won the fight," Santiago said. "I was a lot stronger than he was. I don't know what the judges were looking at. It was my fight and they took it away."
They exchanged knockdowns in the second round. First Luevano (36-1, 15 KOs) went down to a knee after taking an overhand left. But he popped up and immediately landed his own left that sent Santiago (19-2, 14 KOs) down.
Santiago was unsteady as he rose but he got himself together quickly and motioned to Luevano from the neutral corner as if to say "good shot."
There was plenty of action throughout the fight. In the fifth, Luevano sent Santiago into the ropes but he bounced off and rocked Luevano with an uppercut. They rocked each other again at the end of the eighth round.
They exchanged big punches in the 10th round and Luevano looked like was in trouble as Santiago stalked forward. But Luevano, his left eye swelling, was able to return enough fire to keep referee Tony Weeks from moving in, and by the end of the round, Santiago looked like he was exhausted from throwing so many punches.
For the fight, Luevano landed 215 of 641 punches (34 percent) while Santiago connected on 214 of 835 (26 percent).
Lorenzo wins by DQ
Francisco Lorenzo (33-4, 14 KOs), who had been down and was being battered, was ruled a disqualification winner against Humberto Soto at 2:43 of the fourth round after Soto was ruled by referee Joe Cortez to have hit him while he was down.
They were fighting for an interim junior lightweight title, which was made available by the WBC because champion Pacquiao was moving up to challenge for a lightweight title in the main event. However, because of the controversial ending, the WBC elected not to award the interim title, which remains vacant.
It was Soto's second crack at a 130-pound title and another disappointment. He lost a decision to Joan Guzman in November after being outboxed over the second half of the fight. But Soto, 28, had no such problems against Lorenzo.
Soto (43-7-2, 27 KOs), 27, took control from the outset and was rocking Lorenzo, 36, of the Dominican Republic, with a steady stream of hard blows.
But then confusion reigned in the fourth round. Lorenzo was bleeding from his nose, had gone down from a left uppercut and was being dominated.
After the knockdown, Lorenzo was trying to grab Soto but Soto connected in the corner.
Lorenzo, who had been outlanded 19-4 in the round, took a knee. But referee Joe Cortez didn't count, instead indicating that Soto had hit him while he was down.
"He got disqualified because he got hit while he was down," Cortez. "That's a disqualification. I watched the replay to make sure that is what I saw."
Replays indicated that Soto had indeed thrown a punch but that, at best, it grazed Lorenzo's head.
"I don't understand. I didn't hit him when he was down. It was all glancing," Soto said. "I'm really surprised. I never imagined it would come to this. Luck has not been with me."
While Soto was sent to a neutral corner, Lorenzo lay bleeding on the canvas with the doctor looking at him. Cortez conferred with Nevada commission executive director Keith Kizer and other commission officials. After several minutes, Cortez called off the fight and Lorenzo was given the victory.
"It was a good stoppage because I was hit in back of the head while I was down," Lorenzo said.
When he raised his hands, the crowd booed loudly.
Soto had been mentioned as a possible opponent for Pacquiao in the fall. Now, perhaps, there will be a rematch with Lorenzo.
"I don't know if he wants a rematch because in the rematch I would knock his head off," Soto said.
Barrett blows away Fields
Heavyweight Monte Barrett (34-6, 20 KOs) rejuvenated his career and exposed Tye Fields (40-2, 35 KOs), blowing him away in 57 seconds during a first-round onslaught.
Promoter Bob Arum had been trying to sell the Las Vegas-based 6-foot-8, 265-pound southpaw as a threat to the big heavyweights such as Wladimir Klitschko by putting him in with a series of soft touches. Barrett, 37, a faded 6-3, 220-pound former contender, was supposed to be his first real test and Fields, whose only other loss was also a first-round knockout, failed in stunning fashion.
Barrett went right to Fields and hammered with a series of shots with both hands, including a left hook that badly hurt him. Fields struggled to make it to his feet but was unable to beat referee Kenny Bayless' count.
"I was a desperate fighter and desperate fighters do desperate things," said Barrett, who lost title bouts against Nikolai Valuev and Hasim Rahman. "This was my last hurrah."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.
Steven Luevano retained his 126-pound title via split draw against Mario Santiago.