By Paul Mason (@KOboxingsets)
Carl Frampton v Leo Santa Cruz II For The WBA Featherweight Title
The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the venue as Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz meet again this Saturday (23rd January) after they served up twelve rounds of non-stop action in July 2016, in what figured very high up in the end of year, fight of the year candidates. Sky Sports televise in the UK in the early hours of Sunday morning, while Showtime broadcast in the USA.
Frampton (23-0 KO14) won via majority decision in a fight that a lot of fans found rounds difficult to score. Judge Guido Cavallieri’s scorecard of a 114-114 draw, was over ruled by Frank Lombardi (116-111) and Tom Schreck (117-111).
The fact that rounds were hard to score is what makes this rematch even more intriguing. Santa Cruz (32-1-1 KO18) is still to be respected and lost nothing other than his unbeaten record in defeat. He is a 3 weight world champion (IBF Bantamweight, WBC Super Bantamweight & WBA Featherweight) He won his first world title in June 2012 with a unanimous points win over Vusi Malinga and defended twice before outgrowing the weight. He then captured the WBC Super Bantamweight title in June 2013, knocking out former Rendall Munroe victim Victor Terrazas in Carson, California. He defended the title four times and then moved to the weight he has settled at currently, Featherweight. A warm up win at the weight over Jason Cayetano was next, and this then lead to a shot at the WBA title, which he won via majority decision. A knockout defence against Frampton common opponent and shop worn Kiko Martinez was next, and this was enough to entice Frampton to travel to Brooklyn to wrest the title from him.
Frampton was afforded a voluntary defence following the victory, but given he refused this to focus on taking on Santa Cruz again, shows the respect and size of the task that Frampton has taken on. “The Jackal” has grown into a respected world champion and recently became the Ring Magazine’s prestigious fighter of the year for 2016 following a standout year. He captured the IBF Super Bantamweight Title in September 2014 on a magical night at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast with a points victory over the aforementioned Kiko Martinez. Frampton had knocked out the Spaniard 18 months earlier, winning the European title in the process. He followed this up with a commanding knockout of the American Chris Avalos, but suffered a harder than expected American debut in his next fight against the recently deceased Alejandro Gonzales Jnr. Frampton was knocked down twice in the first round, but then made the necessary adjustments to cruise home on the cards. In February 2016 Frampton was finally matched with long-time nemesis, Scott Quigg in a unification match for both the WBA and IBF versions of the title in Manchester. Frampton eked out a split decision win in a match which never caught fire.
And so Frampton and Santa Cruz met in Brooklyn in July last year in a back and forth barnburner full of action, and I for one can’t wait for them to lock horns again this weekend. I predict a fight similar to the first encounter and it could be even tighter this time around. I still predict that Frampton will prevail on the cards, perhaps on a split or majority decision.
The undercard features two intriguing world title fights. The highly touted former WBO Featherweight and Super Featherweight champion, Mikey Garcia (35-0 KO29) attempts to wrest the WBC Lightweight Title away from the also unbeaten Montenegrin Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0 KO15). Zlaticanin is well known to UK fans by dropping and defeating Ricky Burns on the cards in Glasgow in 2014, and I can see the fight being tougher than expected for Garcia, but I expect him to triumph on the cards.
Also on the bill is a man determined to be on a collision course with the winner of the main event. Barry, Wales native, “Lightning” Lee Selby (23-1KO8) puts his IBF Featherweight title on the line against Jonathan Victor Barrios (41-4-1 KO22). Barrios is a former WBA champion at the weight, but I feel he is Taylor made for Selby to put on a showcase, and can see a stoppage victory for the Welshman, which could lead to a big stadium fight in the summer with Frampton should the Northern Irishman prevail in his fight.