Santa Cruz vs. Frampton III — Not in Belfast, says Leo’s Dad
Has Leo Santa Cruz fought his way to such a point on the pugilistic mountain that he’s now able to call the shots in such a manner? Maybe yes, maybe no…
Luckily for the fans of boxing, the sport is replete with its fair share of true, time-tested rivalries. Such history goes back several decades when names such as Robinson, LaMotta, Ali and Frazier lit up the fighting scene with several nights to remember against one another. Closer to our own decade, we have familiar faces such as Barrera, Morales, Marquez (two of them), Vazquez and Pacquiao who’ve called us into packed living rooms complimented by great food and drink. We’d like to see or at the very least have a chance at such highlights in today’s scene. It goes without saying that the sport can be hard to sell to others, especially since the two biggest names of the past dozen or so years finally met in 2015 and gave us a night to forget, if we could only remember.
Closer to today, there are some among us who’d perhaps like a second helping of an undisputed light heavyweight title showdown between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. It could happen, right? Promotional struggles and mishmash aside, a redux of a contest with pound-for-pound implications sounds tasty to many.
This past Monday, a smudge of sorts on the lens of the sweet science may have dampened yet another budding rivalry, only this one would a third meeting as opposed to a simple rematch. More specifically, the top two featherweights in the world, Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KO’s) and Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KO’s), respectively should and must at all costs fight for a third time. The two men met last summer in New York and once again in Las Vegas just a few weeks ago. As we all know, Northern Ireland’s Carl “The Jackal” Frampton fought his way to a majority decision win in Brooklyn and handed “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz his initial loss in the professional ranks. Shortly after his first defeat had set in, Leo stated that he’d gladly fight a rematch in Frampton’s home city of Belfast, if need be. Although there was no rematch clause for the contest, Carl’s handlers nevertheless offered one to Santa Cruz.
On January 30 of this year, Leo got his revenge against “The Jackal” via a majority decision victory of his own, although the bout wasn’t contested in Belfast or even in Europe at all. Las Vegas hosted the show and just as was the case in their first outing, rounds were close and difficult to score, yet Leo outworked Frampton in Vegas in the punches thrown as well as landed categories. He’d done the same in the ring in Brooklyn. Alas, a third fight between the championship fighters would seem customary, wouldn’t it? If we’re to be led by what emerged from the Santa Cruz camp on Monday, then a trilogy may have to wait unless they have more control over the location of the third contest.
In a story posted by the BBC, Leo spoke to Villainfy Media and disclosed in all certainty that he would not fight Frampton in Belfast. To him, such a location would go against him in terms of judges being swayed by crowd influence. His father and trainer, Jose has apparently advised him to stay clear of Northern Ireland. “If he says no, then I wouldn’t go there”, said the current WBA Super World featherweight champion. “I do what he tells me.” Before we chime in with the “if he asked you to jump off of a bridge” argument, let’s quickly recall the words of a defeated Carl Frampton after his second bout with Santa Cruz.
“I’m hoping that Leo sticks to his word and comes to Belfast like he said. He can make it happen”, were the words of promise echoed by “The Jackal” after he’d suffered his first defeat. Regardless, such news makes a third fight, at least on the other side of the pond seem very unlikely and its fallout may reach even further. There was more, of course.
“My dad is scared that if I go over there and even if I beat Carl Frampton, then the people and the judges are going to be an influence,” he added.
“My dad says not to go over there, because it would be a really bad decision and you know, he is right and everything. But if I go over there and I get the win and beat him, for all the fans to see that I win, that’s all that matters. Hopefully they see that I win and they give me that. It’s very important, he’s my father, he’s been there my whole life, my whole career. I always listen to my dad.”
Well, there we have it. It appears that Leo’s father feels that his son’s best efforts will be wasted if he were to follow in the footsteps of the greatest names of the past and travel to the other side of the Atlantic. Has Leo Santa Cruz fought his way to such a point on the pugilistic mountain that he’s now able to call the shots in such a manner? Maybe yes, maybe no but this doesn’t look good at all. What’s there to fear, really? The three-division champion from California (by way of Mexico) has all the goods to go over to the U.K. and take care of business for a second time. What type of hostilities exist between Northern Ireland and Mexico? Likely nothing at all and up until about three weeks ago, what “beef” may the people in Belfast hold against Americans?
Consider this: last year, Carl Frampton traveled to the belly of the most ferocious beast in the form of Manchester, Lancashire, England to face Scott Quigg for the super bantamweight title. He won a close decision and his path to stardom was set to even greater degree. Boxing fans should call “BS” or perhaps even “bollocks” on the nod against traveling to a foreign country. It’s somewhat understandable yet at the same time, quite ridiculous. England and Northern Ireland are not friends, to say the least.
A pro-Mexico crowd has been known to sway judges, as history has shown us. Look no further than when Mexico’s all-time top fighter, Julio Cesar Chavez, maintained his then-unbeaten record after being thoroughly outclassed by the great Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker in September of 1993. The 65,000 or so fans who packed the Alamodome on that fall evening were likely pulling for Chavez and while they may have swayed the judges, even some of them loudly booed the decision of a majority draw.
Bad nights happen as do dubious decisions. But nothing happens if there’s no fight. Why not roll the dice and see what happens? A fourth fight in Mexico, perhaps? Let’s hope we get some good news soon. This pairing of champions is too good to let it go so soon.