Talking Boxing

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January 29, 2017

Santa Cruz grabs the equaliser

Leo Santa Cruz, Ringstar Promotions, Premier Boxing, Carl Frampton

Image courtesy of Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

by Shaun Brown

After 24 rounds of boxing the score now reads Leo Santa Cruz 1 Carl Frampton 1.

And tonight in Las Vegas it was the 28-year-old Mexican (33-1-1, 18 KOs) who evened up the score to take the WBA world featherweight title (and WBC diamond belt), and possibly set up a rubber match later this year.

On July 30, 2016 inside the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn it was Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) who prevailed after a 12 round thriller to become a two-weight world champion. Six months later it seemed like 'The Jackal' was expecting another brawl for the ages, but instead was somewhat outfoxed by the challenger who came in with different ideas of his own.

Two rounds into this rematch and it was clear that Santa Cruz and his team had done their studying, and decided to opt for brains rather than brawn. It was the ideal start and one that seemed to surprise the champion who tried to force the action throughout.

The long troublesome arms of Santa Cruz proved key in the fight, his jab able to fend off Frampton who spent more time than normal thinking about what to do.

Santa Cruz was disciplined with his Plan A and was more than happy to revert to Plan B(rawl) when he was called upon to do so. 

The bursts of toe-to-toe action were down to Frampton looking to take his rival back down memory lane, but Santa Cruz would have none of it as he continued to give the Northern Irishman a puzzle that he didn't fully expect to have to solve.

Frampton went back to his corner at the end of the fifth, knowing that he had lost the round and was losing his way in the fight. Body language is overrated but in this case it was apparent how frustrated the champion was.

In the seventh Santa Cruz once again dug in showing he was happy to provide machismo and bravado as the leather flew, much to the delight of everyone inside the MGM Grand. It was a period in the fight where Frampton had picked up the pace and brought himself back into the fight. Santa Cruz had slowed, was getting hit more and Frampton wasn't having to plan as much.

After taking rounds 6, 7 and 8 on our scorecard Santa Cruz woke up in the 9th session beating his opponent in the exchanges and countering his man more often than not.

Frampton had become a bit more ragged, his movement never went missing but Santa Cruz's arsenal was doing a great job of firing at will and snapping Frampton's head back with an array of shots.

Santa Cruz was simply doing better at what was proving to be the vital components of the fight. The fundamentals were in place from the opening bell, while Frampton at times looked sluggish and slow of foot.

In the final round Frampton gave three minutes of work and accuracy that were needed to give him any hope on the scorecards but it proved to be too little too late.

Santa Cruz was awarded a majority decision after Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman's scorecards of 115-113 had overruled the 114-114 from Burt Clements.

In the immediate aftermath words of, "Let's go again" could be heard in the ring as Santa Cruz and Frampton shook hands, knowing the result was right, full of respect but acknowledging that a third fight had to happen.

"I'm a man of my word, let's do it again," said the new champion afterwards.

"I felt that Leo probably deserved it," said Frampton. 

"He told me what he was going to do! It felt like the brawler was out-boxing the boxer," he added.

"I like to give the fans a great fight," said Santa Cruz who was almost apologetic that he didn't go gung-ho as much as he perhaps would have like to. "I had to do what I had to do to win the fight."

"I hope we can do it again," said Frampton. 

"It's 1-1, we have to do it again."