Saturday, July 30 saw former unified Super Bantamweight champion Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) move up to 126 pounds, and defeat three-division champion Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs), taking his WBA Super World Featherweight championship in the process.
The office scores were 114-114, 117-111 and 116-12.
With this feat, Frampton replicated history, by winning the WBA Featherweight title that his mentor, Barry McGuigan, won over 30 years ago.
Furthermore, Frampton also became the first two-division champion from Northern Ireland.
The day before, both fighters comfortably made the Featherweight limit for their fight, which took place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Santa Cruz weighed in at 125½ pounds, and Frampton weighed in half a pound lighter.
In Round 1, Frampton had success on the back foot, landing crisp, fast punches on the head of Santa Cruz. In the midst of inside fighting, Round 2 took a dramatic turn, when Frampton’s left hook counter-shot forced Santa Cruz to fall back into the ropes.
The subsequent rounds replicated the early success Frampton had, with proficient counter-punching being on show. Frampton’s boxing wit was also displayed, by moving to the side after landing a punch, to evade the straight-lined attacks of Santa Cruz.
It became clear that Santa Cruz, based on previous fights, was not able to walk his opponent down as profusely, which can be attributed to the power of Frampton, and the fact he did not struggle to make the Featherweight limit.
However, several rounds later, Frampton’s intensity seemed to depreciate, encouraging Santa Cruz to force Frampton on the back foot more than usual, and take home the rounds. Shortly after, Frampton pushed Santa Cruz back, resulting in an end-to-end battle.
In the last few rounds, fatigue had clearly started to affect Frampton, which was shown by his defensive lapses. This allowed Santa Cruz to capitalize with his combination punching, and arguably win the latter rounds.
The fight ended with both fighters swinging relentlessly. As a consequence, this made the fight all the more difficult to judge a clear winner, due to the constant change in tides throughout the duration of the fight.
“It’s a dream come true. I had the dream of winning a world title and I won it, but I never thought I’d win in two divisions. It was a tough fight, I wanted it to be a tough fight because I wanted a fight the people could remember. I respect him a lot. He was a true warrior,” said Frampton.
Overall, Santa Cruz vs. Frampton was a prime example of how two fighters at the top of their game can produce a competitive, dramatic, and captivating spectacle for boxing fans.
Consequently, a call for a rematch would certainly be justified.
“It’s hard to get your first loss, but now we’ll go back to the gym, we’ll get the rematch and we’ll win. And that loss will mean nothing. I want to have a rematch in Los Angeles, but I’ll go to Belfast too,” said Santa Cruz.
Photos by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing