Saturday, July 30, 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, another Fight of the Year contender emerged when Carl Frampton defeated Leo Santa Cruz by majority decision.
This fight was a back-and-forth brawl, with classic exchanges throughout 12 action-packed rounds of boxing.
Santa Cruz threw a colossal 1,002 punches Saturday night, but that wasn’t enough to retain his featherweight world title.
Frampton displayed courage and durability, overcoming Santa Cruz’s flurry of dangerous blows. Frampton was also able to control the pace of the fight even having a seven-inch reach disadvantage.
Frampton came out strong in the early rounds, which looked to surprise Santa Cruz and get him off his game early on. While Santa Cruz was resilient and never stopped throwing, Frampton’s 211-191 advantage in power punches landed was a huge difference maker.
Frampton showed off his power in the second round, landing a powerful left hook to the chin of Santa Cruz, which sent him staggering backwards into the ropes.
The action never stopped, even in the 12th round both men fought like the outcome was in jeopardy. While judge Guido Cavalleri scored the bout a draw 114-114, Frank Lombardi had it 116-112 and Tom Schreck had it 117-111 in favor of Frampton.
The victory–which Team Frampton had predicted from the beginning–makes the Belfast star the first Northern Irishman the first to win world titles in two divisions after claiming Santa Cruz’s WBA featherweight title.
While both men were humble after the fight, in victory and in defeat, Santa Cruz did express the fact that he was surprised about the roar of Frampton’s fans in the arena for a majority of the fight.
Because the crowd was largely in favor for Frampton, Santa Cruz thought that the cheering might have swayed the scoring.
“Maybe the judges were hearing the crowd and thought that every little [Frampton] punch was scoring… maybe, without that, we would have had a draw or maybe a decision.”
After the announcement was made and Frampton held his hand up high, he celebrated with his manager Barry McGuigan, who was also WBA Featherweight champion for three fights in 1985-86.
“We’ve always believed he could beat Santa Cruz,” McGuigan said (via Boxing News Online) of the fighter he has guided expertly from the start.
“We knew he had more talent, he had more movement, and he would bamboozle him with his feet.”
Lou DiBella also expressed his excitement after the fight. “That’s fight of the year. It was sensational. Frampton fought a brilliant fight. He got nailed a few times with some punches. I wasn’t going to be surprised by anything the judges said. That was rock-em, sock-em robots. The work rate was unbelievable,” said DiBella (via the LA Times).
So what is next for the new WBA Featherweight Champion after his spectacular performance?
Both Frampton and Santa Cruz have already expressed interest in a rematch in Belfast, and honestly who would be opposed to another fight between these two warriors?
“I wanted to be in with true champions like Leo Santa Cruz,” said Frampton about the possibility of rematch. “This guy is a three-weight world champion. He is a true warrior and I respect him a hell of a lot.”
“It was a pretty tough fight, but now I want a rematch. I don’t care where,” said Santa Cruz. “He’s a great champion and he’s got a very difficult style. It’s hard to forget your first loss but I will go back to the gym and get a rematch.”
But there is another big matchup already being discussed as well–a fight against champion Lee Selby.
“I would love to bring him [Santa Cruz] to Belfast and show them an amazing fighter, but I have a good relationship with Lee Selby’s team. I want to be the best and be involved in big fights.”
A fight against Selby would pose yet another big test for Frampton, Selby holds the IBF Featherweight title.
Selby and his team seem eager to make the fight happen. Whether or not, Selby has to wait for the rivalry between Santa Cruz and Frampton to play out or his team is able to clinch a shot at Frampton’s WBA belt–it looks as if it’s win-win for boxing fans either way.
All photo by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing