Carl Frampton-Leo Santa Cruz II: For pride. For glory. For family
There were no hurdles to overcome when it came to making Saturday night’s rematch between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The idea to immediately run back last July’s contest wasn’t conveyed by the mystery of controversy, nor spurred on by petty personal qualms, and never threatened by hard-boiled egos: It was simply done to the delight of everyone – fighters and fans alike.
“Negotiations for this fight went pretty smoothly,” said Frampton at the final press conference on Thursday afternoon. “I think that both of us enjoyed the last fight. I think it was exciting fight for the fans. I think the fans actually enjoyed the fight more than me and Leo. It was pretty easy to make, so credit to Leo and his team for that.”
Frampton, 23-0 (14), took the WBA featherweight title away from Santa Cruz via majority decision nod in the first fight – a viable “Fight of the Year” candidate of 2016 that took place in Brooklyn, New York. He became the first fighter ever out of Northern Ireland to become a world titlist in two weight classes and, in a conversation with UCNLive.com at the Los Angeles press conference officially announcing the rematch, Frampton shed some light on why he will be traveling to the United States again to defend the title.
“Simply because of the time of the year,” explained Frampton in early December. “I think that the biggest indoor arena in Belfast is the Odyssey Arena and it holds under 9,000 people. I think if you do me against Leo Santa Cruz at the right time of the year, and we can go outdoor in a big venue, you can sell 30,000 tickets. No doubt in my mind. I was happy to come to Vegas. It’s something that I wanted to do. I wanted to box and top a bill in Las Vegas and I’m very happy to give Leo the rematch and do it there.”
Santa Cruz, 32-1-1 (18), wasn’t afraid to admit that the New York atmosphere wasn’t the place for him. There was a bewildered look behind his big smile, as he entered the Barclays Center last July to a welcome of boos from the predominant Irish crowd. The Mexican import fighting out of Rosemead, California, got off to a slow start before finding his groove in the sixth round but failed to overshadow the impressive boxing display Frampton conducted against him.
“I think this fight is going to be even better than the first fight. If you guys thought the first fight was great, this one is going to be a lot better,” said Santa Cruz during his time at the podium on Thursday. The 28-year-old had plenty to say at the final press conference, including a lamentation that signified his difference of approach in this fight.
“I, as a Mexican fighter, you know all Mexican fighters like to give the fans a great fight and, every time I step in the ring, I go out there and try to please the fans. I go out there and brawl. I always go to fight and make it a war. I could use my distance; I could box and everything but I never do that because sometimes that makes for a boring fight. It’s not entertaining. This fight, I gotta think about myself. A lot of people have told me to be smart, that I have to use my distance, my reach and, with Frampton, I don’t have to go out there and brawl. I’m gonna try to do a little bit of everything. Go out there and brawl, use my distance, but, more importantly, I’m going to go out there and be smart, try to do what I have to do to win this fight. That’s more important.”
Santa Cruz also wasn’t shy in revealing the praise he had for the first fighter to beat him in the ring. “When I see Carl Frampton, I see myself,” said Santa Cruz before comparing their love of family. In the build-up to the first matchup, his father/trainer Jose went through chemotherapy for a battle with cancer and, while he was able to be in his son’s corner that night in Brooklyn, he was a missing piece during training camp. Jose has been there every step of the way in this training camp, however, and, with that, Santa Cruz expects to be better. Family is the main reason they both fight, he explained about him and Frampton and this was just one of many indications that the he liked the cut of Frampton’s jib.
“I think our styles just gel well together,” said Frampton just before closing out the final presser. “Leo is a tremendous fighter, who I have the utmost respect for. He spoke a lot about family and that both of us fight for our families, and that’s really all the motivation you need. When you have two guys with two young kids, who just want to make them a better life – a better life than our lives. I think then you have the ingredients for a top quality contest. No doubt both of us will do whatever it takes to win this fight. The way things have been going in this training camp for me, I’m extremely confident I’m getting the win. I’m excited for the fight; I’m up for it but I believe that I’m going to come out victorious.”
Both weighed in at exactly 125 pounds on Friday afternoon, making Saturday night’s bout officially for Frampton’s WBA featherweight title. The rabid Irish boxing fans showed up in droves at the weigh-in and the extra 2,500 miles of travel to Vegas certainly didn’t keep them from supporting their fighter. Should there be duplicate of the fight in which they took part last year, Frampton-Santa Cruz II could lead toward a trilogy but those Irish fans probably won’t have to go for for that one.
The fight will, once again, be the main event of a Showtime broadcast Saturday night (10:00 p.m ET/7 p.m. PT), and will be opened by another intriguing match-up between WBC lightweight titleholder Dejan Zlaticanin and Mikey Garcia.