Photo by Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
Carl Frampton lost for the first time in his professional career on Saturday night as Mexico’s Leo Santa Cruz earned a deserved majority decision in an all-action contest which saw him regain the WBA featherweight title.
Backed by thousands of his Northern Irish compatriots in Las Vegas, Nevada’s, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Frampton appeared to have issues in dealing with Santa Cruz’s height and reach advantage for most of the fight. The Mexican’s relentless and piercing jab troubled Frampton and this proved a consistent theme throughout the bout.
As reflected in the judges’ scorecards, the pair swapped rounds in a frenetic, back-and-forth contest with Frampton opting to fight on the inside and target the body of Santa Cruz as the longer man tried his best to keep the fight at a distance. Frampton did make a late rally, punctuated with a strong 12 th round to close the night, but it wasn’t enough in the eyes of the judges.
It was the second contest between the pair, with Frampton emerging the victor in another entertaining fight to win the championship—thus becoming the first ever Northern Irishman to win two world titles, adding to his super-bantamweight gold—and handing Santa Cruz the first defeat of his standout career back in July, 2016. Like on this weekend just gone by, Frampton won the first contest by a majority decision.
That fight was Frampton’s first crack at the featherweight division, having moved up in weight after unifying the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight world titles against fellow Brit Scott Quigg months previous. Frampton’s diligence and cleaner boxing work won the judges over despite Santa Cruz’s busier punching output.
With both men eking out close decision wins in entertaining fashion, there were immediate calls for a rubber match to settle the score from pundits, fans, coaches and the fighters themselves. “Leo probably deserved it. It was my fault and I want to apologise to the travelling fans,” said a deflated Frampton following the fight. “I hope we can do it again—we need to do it again.
“My feet were a bit slow. I needed to let my hands go a bit more when I got close. We had a fantastic training camp, I felt completely prepared. I feel like I’ve let the people down.”
Santa Cruz agreed: “I worked hard and did what I had to. I fought a great fighter and let’s make a third fight. He is a great fighter and a great counter-puncher. It was tough to change my style, in my head I wanted to go for it, but I was told to box him and that’s what I did.
“I am a man of my word. We are both great fighters, we deserve it and let’s go again.”
With both fights taking place on American soil—New York City and Las Vegas respectively—there is talk of the third bout taking place in Frampton’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and that is something “The Jackal” is hunting for. “I hope so, I hope he is a man of his word and we can do it in Belfast.
“I have come to the States twice. We could do it four, five, six times. I hope we do it again. I am deeply disappointed but let’s have a trilogy and have our names linked together forever and hopefully I can win 2-1.”
Santa Cruz rebounded from his first professional loss admirably and it will be intriguing to see how Frampton reacts after tasting defeat for the first time in his career. This, along with the high standard of boxing produced in their two fights so far, means the rubber match—the latest chapter of this fascinating boxing story—can’t come soon enough.
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