DEBUTANT contributor and combat aficionado Ross Francis (@ross11ross) makes his WLB bow covering Carl Frampton’s defence of his world featherweight title against Leo Santa Cruz in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Carl Frampton v Leo Santa Cruz | Sunday 04:00 | Sky Sports 1
After Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton (23-0-0, 14 KO’s) captured the WBA Featherweight title from the previously undefeated Leo ‘The Earthquake’ Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KO’s) in what was arguably 2016’s fight of the year, the calls for a rematch were made almost instantly.
In this great time for boxing fans, where the big fights are being made, the rematch is on and Ring magazine’s Fighter of the Year will now defend his belt, with Santa Cruz coming as the challenger to Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The first fight was a real cross-over victory for Frampton. His first at the heavier weight, having comfortably defeated UK rival Scott Quigg in a Super Bantamweight world title unification fight earlier in 2016, this secured his place amongst the pound-for-pound rankings.
Fight of the year
Defeating an undefeated, three-division champion Mexican in Santa Cruz (still the no.1 rated Mexican fighter in the world) in a toe-to-toe slugfest was against the odds (Frampton the 2/1 underdog) and was marvelled by boxing fans all over the world.
The first fight saw Santa Cruz, the larger man with significant reach advantage, try to walk Frampton down but was beaten by quick foot movement and slick counter punching.
Frampton’s hard-hitting gained Santa Cruz’s respect early in the fight but his tendency to be drawn into trading with the then champion wasn’t the smartest of tactics.
Both Frampton and his trainer, Shaun McGuigan, observing that he stayed in the pocket too long and took too many shots by coming out in straight lines. I do not expect to see these mistakes again in the rematch.
Frampton has always been a fighter who can adapt and change his style to suit a fight – see his fight with Gonzalez Jnr where he recovered from two knock-downs in the 1st Round to win every round thereafter – and I see him adapting that style to better affect in this fight.
The Northern Irishman has now felt the power Santa Cruz has and knows he can both absorb this, as well as box and move successfully through 12 rounds (Santa Cruz threw over 1,000 punches in the first fight, connecting with 225).
Neither will be lacking in stamina and this is reflected in the 8/13 (SkyBet) available for either fighter to win by decision.
Living up to expectations
Rematches of great fights tend not to live up to the first and I suspect we may see a similar story here, with a more tactical fight on our hands.
Santa Cruz will need to be cuter in his attacks; simply trying to walk Frampton down will leave him open to the same counter-punching he faced in the first fight.
However Frampton, more comfortable at the weight now and, having rocked Santa Cruz in the first fight (the ropes keeping him up after a chopping left hand), has stated he fancies his chances of stopping the Mexican this time round.
Although that seems unlikely – Santa Cruz has never been stopped – I think he could be on to something with this and I’m tempted by the 11/4 (William Hill) available for Santa Cruz to be knocked down in the fight.
The betting angle
As the fight progresses into the later rounds, if this is a cagey affair, I see Santa Cruz opening up more and taking some risks.
This will leave him open to counters and if Frampton has built up a lead – as he had in the first fight and did against Quigg – his precision punching could see The Jackal nick some of those later rounds which would secure a points victory.
The bookmakers are not wanting to be caught cold a second time by a Jackal victory and have priced the Belfast native at 8/11 (BetVictor) for the straight win (Santa Cruz available at 6/4 with Betfair).
However, I feel that with the changes in Frampton’s game plan and a more cautious approach, a win by Decision or Technical Decision at 6/4 (Ladbrokes) is the favourable option.