Frampton v Santa Cruz II – Post Fight
By Neel Khagram
29th January 2017

The world famous MGM Grand Garden arena played host to another classic, as Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz shared an absorbing rematch which on this occasion went the Mexican native’s way. Santa Cruz’s majority decision victory meant he regained the WBA featherweight title for a second time, and in doing so inflicted a first blemish on Frampton’s professional career. Refreshingly, the Northern Irishman offered no excuses upon hearing the decision, admitting the better man won on the night.

Frampton’s defeat also meant huge disappointment for the vast number of travelling fans who made the trip to the Nevada dessert. ‘’The Jackal’’ has acquired cult status amongst his countrymen over the years, with vocal chants of ‘’Everywhere We Go” and “Frampton’s On Fire” greeting him to the ring in scenes reminiscent of the Ricky Hatton era.

However, as the first bell rang, it was Santa Cruz who dominated the early exchanges with the jab as he utilised his natural height and reach advantage against the smaller counter puncher. The crowds noise could certainly be used as a barometer of how the early jousting was going, with the vastly outnumbered Mexican fans chanting ‘’Leo, Leo, Leo.”

Santa Cruz’s early supremacy was due to a slight modification in game plan from the first fight. Having averaged over a hundred punches a round in Brooklyn, ‘’El Terremoto’’ was more measured in his output, concentrating on quality thrown and effectively controlling range with the jab. In doing so, he was not falling in as much, and meant it was Frampton who had to change tact.

From round three on, Frampton elected to stand more on the back foot in an attempt to use his superior boxing ability to walk Santa Cruz onto mistakes. This shift allowed him to land more with the counter punch and certainly made the middle sessions much closer.

Santa Cruz still got the better of the toe to toe exchanges though but his work noticeably dropped in rounds six, seven and eight as he started to neglect the jab which had served him so well. This allowed the Northern Irish ‘’Jackal’’ to stand more on the inside and unload artillery up close, in what was his most comfortable period of the fight.

As the bout entered its last third, there was a general feeling at ringside that whist Frampton was probably down on the cards, the ascendancy and momentum was with him. However, Santa Cruz demonstrated why he is a three weight world champion and dominated round nine, snapping Frampton’s head back with a big right hand followed by a short left hook. Distress signals were then evident on Frampton’s face as he walked back to the corner, realising a big finish was needed to retain his title.

In keeping with what had happened before, the championship rounds were full of action. Frampton went looking for the knockout, but Santa Cruz was able to pick him off to steal the final exchanges and take a deserved decision 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113.

A third rubber is the most desired option next for fight fans around the world. Whether we look at Bowe-Holyfield, Gatti Ward or Barrera-Morales, every fighter needs a dance partner. Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz are lucky to have each other, and now have the chance to forever etch their names in boxing history with the trilogy.

Frampton v Santa Cruz II – Preview
By Neel Khagram
23rd January 2017

When Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz step into the ring this Saturday night at Las Vegas’s famous MGM Grand Garden Arena, they will do so having already shared an enthralling thirty six minutes of boxing together. Whilst the WBA featherweight title may have changed hands, an immediate rematch of last year’s fight of the year contender is an exciting prospects for fans.

In boxing though, second helpings usually flatter to deceive. This is because fighters and trainers are more accustomed to the style in front of them, whilst some pugilists may have declined in certain areas when the return leg arises. Whether we look at Eubank-Benn II, Cooper-Ali II or Lewis-McCall II as examples, history seems to back this up. One hopes that ‘‘’The Jackal’’ versus ‘’El Terremoto” part two goes against the grain, and favours the narrative of modern day barnburners such as Leonard-Hearns II and Robinson-La Motta II.

Going into this Saturday’s fight, the presence of Santa Cruz’s father could be telling. Having missed much of the previous build-up due to chemotherapy, both father and son will be mentally settled and focused on the task at hand now that he is in remission. Together they would have worked on a different game plan, but one wonders whether the fighter can veer away from his high work rate, punch volume style and display anything different.  

The Californian resident does hold the advantage of the fight taking place on the west side of America though which might prove comforting. However, it will be Frampton who draws the majority of the crowds support. With numerous fans from Northern Ireland expected to make the trip, the man from Tigers Bay proved against Scott Quigg in Manchester and the first Santa Cruz triumph that he can perform in front of an expectant crowd.

Motivation shouldn’t be an issue for the Ring Magazine fighter of the year either, as victory would cement his place as one of Northern Irelands greatest ever sportsman.  ‘’The Jackal’’ could also accomplish what his mentor Barry McGuigan failed to do in Vegas and retain the WBA featherweight title.  

Frampton therefore enters the fight as a firm favourite having already done the job once, with his superior boxing ability and power probably being the deciding factor. A huge domestic unification fight against IBF champion Lee Selby (who’s fighting on the undercard) awaits so long as both men come through their respective bouts at the weekend. However, to overlook Santa Cruz’s chances would be a mistake given his settled preparations this time around, with a third and deciding fight a real possibility were he to pull off the victory.  ​