Santa-Cruz vs. Frampton Fight Preview

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By Seamus McNally

On July 30th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Mexico’s Leo Santa Cruz (32–0–1, 18 KOs) and Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton (22–0, 14 KOs) put their undefeated records on the line against each other in a match up of two of the best boxers in the world south of 130 lbs. The highly anticipated fight between two of the biggest stars in the lower weight divisions is being promoted by DiBella Entertainment and will be televised live Saturday night on Showtime.

Santa Cruz established himself as one of the world’s premier bantamweights by the end of 2012 before deciding to move up to 122 lbs in 2013. In his super bantamweight debut that May, Santa Cruz defeated Venezuelan Alexander Munoz by fifth-round stoppage. Santa Cruz put the rest of the division on notice a few months later in August with a statement third-round knockout win over super bantamweight contender Victor Terrazas of Mexico. Santa Cruz capped of the year with a unanimous decision victory over Cesar Seda in December.

2014 got off to a promising start for Santa Cruz, with a dominant decision win over contender Cristian Mijares in March. Santa Cruz actually called out Frampton after his win over Mijares but the fight never materialized. Santa Cruz then starting drawing the ire of fans by facing sub-par competition in his next few fights, especially with plenty of big names in his division that he could have faced, namely fellow Mexican star Abner Mares. The criticism towards Santa Cruz came to a crescendo May 2, 2015 on the Mayweather-Pacquiao under card. Santa Cruz was given a huge opportunity by being placed in the co-feature slot of the biggest fight of the 21st century. Instead of facing an elite opponent with the whole world watching, he took on former sparring partner Jose Catayeno in his first non 12-round fight in two years. Santa Cruz was not even able to get his over matched opponent out of there and had to settle for a shutout unanimous decision.

Fed up with hearing about his lackluster opposition, Santa Cruz finally gave the fans what they wanted and took on Mares in a featherweight bout August 29 on ESPN. The fight lived up to the high expectations, with Santa Cruz winning a thrilling 12-round majority decision between the two Southern California residents in front of a raucous crowd at the Staples Center in LA. The action-packed win propelled Santa Cruz back into the good graces of the fans.

Frampton has been a star in his native Northern Ireland and the surrounding countries for a number of years, routinely fighting in front of electric sold out crowds in his hometown of Belfast. But he was only introduced to the American public last July, and was surprisingly shaky in his debut in America. He was dropped twice in the first round by the unheralded Alejandro Gonzalez before recovering to win a unanimous decision.

Frampton went back across the pond for a mega fight of his own, facing Scott Quigg five months ago on February 27 in front of a frenzied atmosphere at the Manchester Arena. Frampton-Quigg was similar to Santa Cruz-Mares in that both fights were in demand by the public years before they finally took place. Unlike Santa Cruz-Mares, this fight did not live up to the high expectations. The fight turned out to be more of a tactical battle than the expected slugfest. Both fighters looked nervous under the huge spotlight and were tentative to engage. Nonetheless, Frampton got the better of his nemesis, winning a split decision to set himself up for a return to America and another major fight against an unbeaten opponent.

Santa Cruz and Frampton share a common opponent, Kiko Martinez of Spain. Both fighters were able to stop Martinez. In February 2013, Frampton won the European super bantamweight title against Martinez with a ninth-round knockout at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. They had a rematch 19 months later in September 2014, this time at a makeshift outdoor arena in Belfast to accommodate Frampton’s growing legion of fans. Frampton did not get a stoppage this time, but was able to win a near shutout unanimous decision. Santa Cruz faced Martinez in his most recent fight, which took place at the Honda Center in Anaheim on the same day as Frampton-Quigg. Santa Cruz was able to take out Martinez in the fifth round.

A fight between two elite fighters, both undefeated and in their primes is never easy to predict, and that is why fans love to watch this type of match up. They are also unlike a lot of undefeated fighters, both having already been tested in a big fight. That makes this fight even more intriguing since both have tasted success in a high pressure situation before.

Santa Cruz is a come forward, action fighter who’s punch output in the ring is only surpassed by pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez. Frampton has a more calculated style, preferring to fight at a measured pace and landing precise counter shots. Frampton will gladly exchange leather when pushed, which should make for a very exciting scrap. Santa Cruz will be the bigger man on fight night, with a 3” height advantage and 7” reach advantage over Frampton. This is also Santa Cruz’s fourth fight at featherweight, while Frampton is fighting above the super bantamweight limit of 122 lbs for the first time. Frampton will have the crowd behind him with a large contingent of Irish fans in the New York area. The fight will be a thrilling back and forth affair most of the night before Santa Cruz’s wears down the smaller man in the championship rounds by imposing his size advantage with his pressure style to eke out a close decision 115-113.

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