Mexico's Leo Santa Cruz retained his World Boxing Association featherweight title Saturday by stopping American Chris Avalos, setting up a title rematch next year with former world champion Abner Mares.
Santa Cruz unleashed a punishing flurry of powerful punches to the head of Avalos that set the stage for the fight being stopped by referee Thomas Taylor after 94 seconds of the eighth round.
"I did what I could. I tried to give a great show," Santa Cruz said. "I got him with good shots. I said sooner or later they are going to stop it."
Dominating from start to finish, Santa Cruz improved to 34-1-1 with his 19th victory inside the distance. Avalos fell to 27-6.
Santa Cruz and Mares had already agreed to terms for a rematch early next year for the same 126-pound division crown Santa Cruz won over Mares by majority decision in 2015.
"Let's get it on with Mares in the beginning of the year, as soon as possible," Santa Cruz said. "Now we're ready for Mares."
The WBA championship rematch was contingent upon both winning Saturday and Mares did his part by taking a unanimous decision over fellow Mexican Andres Gutierrez.
"I'm ready for that rematch," Mares said. "Let's bring it on. March or April, I'm ready for it."
Santa Cruz, 29, was impressive in his first fight after avenging his only loss in January by downing Britain's Carl Frampton to reclaim the WBA throne. Avalos was stopped by Frampton in 2015 in his only prior world title fight.
Mares, 31, won a fight stopped after 10 rounds due to an accidental clash of heads that opened a bloody gash over Gutierrez's left eye.
Mares, in only his second bout since losing to Santa Cruz more than two years ago, improved to 31-2 with one drawn after his 16th triumph inside the distance.
Gutierrez fell to 35-2 with one draw after two judges scored the fight 99-91 for Mares and the other had it a perfect 100-90.
"I thought it was a great performance," Mares said. "After close to a year layoff, I felt like I performed really well. No rust at all. I felt fast. I felt great."