Rematch: Frampton vs. Santa Cruz II
Santa Cruz is a fine fighter, as rugged as they come. But Frampton’s elevated skills, which won him the first fight, will be something Leo needs to overcome…
Tonight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a fight televised live on Showtime Championship Boxing, WBA Super World featherweight champion Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs), the exemplary boxer-puncher from Belfast, Northern Ireland, defends his title against Leo Santa Cruz (31-1-1, 18 KOs), the former three-time champion from Rosemead, California, by way of Huetamo, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico, in a rematch of their 2016 candidate for Fight of the Year.
Frampton won that bout by majority decision, but it was nip and tuck, especially in the first half of the fight, before “The Jackal” took over. But that was then and this is now and the rematch is much anticipated and for good reason.
“I’m really happy to step back in the ring for the rematch,” said Santa Cruz during a recent teleconference call. “After the first fight, when I heard the decision and I got my first defeat, there was nothing in my head other than the rematch.”
It was Leo’s first loss, but he didn’t complain, he didn’t whine or blame the judges. He took it like a man and turned his attention to seeking revenge.
“I wanted the rematch because I knew I made some mistakes,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t the best I could perform so I said I could really improve on things and I think I could get the victory next time. So, in that time, nothing has been in my head other than the rematch and I was very anxious and motivated to give another great show.”
Santa Cruz’s attributed the defeat, at least in part, on his father’s bout with cancer, which is now in remission.
“The first fight was a great fight for the fans that I love and I’m just happy and motivated to go out there and give another great fight and make it even better than the first one.”
Frampton agrees with those sentiments, but he’s a man on a mission and it’s hard to disagree. He has held titles at two different weights and as much as he respects his opponent, he’s convinced that he has what it takes to defeat Santa Cruz a second time.
“I just wanted to start off with what Leo said. I think that this is going to be another great fight. I think the last time it was talked about as one of the fights of the year. And I think our styles just gelled really well together. I don’t think it’s going to be any different this time.
“Whatever happens it’s going to be competitive up until it ends but I think that, what I’ve been doing this time in training camp, I feel like a fully-fledged featherweight. I was going into the unknown the last time I fought Leo, my first title fight at featherweight.
“But I feel like I’ve developed featherweight now, much stronger, bigger and punching harder. And I feel like at the end I’m going to get the win.”
Santa Cruz is a fine fighter, as rugged as they come. But Frampton’s elevated skills, which won him the first fight, will be something Leo needs to overcome.
“For this fight, I’m going to try to do that,” he said. I’m going to go out there and try to make it for e to come up with a big dream victory. And I’m going to go out there and everybody is going to be surprised at what I could do.”
Does that mean Santa Cruz has a specific game plan in mind? Does it mean that he can adjust his style to counter the style of Frampton?
“I’m going to go and fight the same way,” he said. “I like to go out there and make it exciting. That’s what the fans love. The fans love for a fighter to go toe-to-toe in a fight. And that’s why people say I only fight one way.
“But the reality is that I could fight any way. I could adopt any way. I could box. I could move. But the truth is I really don’t like moving because I like entertaining the fans, because they go out to see the great fights.”
After his winning performance against Santa Cruz, Frampton was anointed by The RING and BWAA. He was exceptional before their first fight, but few noticed until he and Leo got it on.
“I perform best under pressure,” Frampton said. “And what these awards are doing is simply filing your head full of confidence. I want to go out and prove that these awards are justified, that I deserved to be the Fighter of the Year last year.
“I think once you’ve done it once, you always know you can do it again. And I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, really. If I’m being completely honest with you, I don’t think I could have fought at that pace at 122. Fighting at 122 was taking something from my performance.
“I just felt like a better man at featherweight. Once you do it once, you have it in your head you can do it again. And there are a few adjustments that I want to make in this fight to make things a little bit easier for myself. I’ve been trying different things out in the gym but I’m prepared for whatever Leo has to throw at me. I understand this is going to be a difficult fight.
“If I have to go into the trenches, I’m going to do it. I’ll do whatever it takes to get this one.”