Cruz, who was deducted a point in round eight due to headbutts, won the bout with scores of 115-112 and 114-113, with one judge scoring the action 114-113 for Cabrera.
“I was superior tonight, but I do respect all of my opponents, and he was very good today,” said Cruz. “I was frustrated a little. He thought it was my birthday because he was hugging me all night.”
The typically aggressive Cruz started patiently as the southpaw Cabrera used his height and jab to try to keep Cruz from getting into position to land his power shots across the early action. Cruz began to find his offense in rounds three through six, landing numerous strong hooks, including a counter left that gave Cabrera problems time and time again.
“Cabrera’s height didn’t frustrate me as much as the fact that I was coming off a considerably long period of inactivity,” said Cruz. “That’s not an excuse though, and I still won.”
"In the middle rounds I was pulling back and he was catching me with punches that were turning my head around,” said Cabrera. “He's a 'Pitbull' and we gave the fans a good fight.”
Cabrera was able to adjust in the later rounds and nearly pulled off the upset by winning at least two of the last three rounds on all three cards. Cruz held a significant edge in power punches landed (152-55) and was the more accurate fighter overall by landing 31% of his shots compared to 13.5% from Cabrera.
"I waited a little too long waiting to see how much he had,” said Cabrera. “Then I started turning up my punches when I saw that was all he had. I thought I took control at the end of the fight, but I don't make any excuses.
Cabrera expressed his belief post-fight that he had done enough to earn a career-best victory, while Cruz reiterated his intention to seek a rematch against unbeaten superstar Gervonta Davis after losing a competitive decision to Davis in December 2021.
"I really thought I did enough in the early rounds and the closing rounds,” said Cabrera. “It was a close fight. His energy started going down toward the end of the fight and I was tagging him with uppercuts.”
“I respect Gervonta, and at the same time I’m sure that I will have the opportunity to redeem myself,” said Cruz. “When that opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”