By Ian S Palmer
There’s a huge Super World Featherweight title rematch this Saturday, January 28th when unbeaten Carl Frampton of Ireland defends the WBA belt against former champion Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Frampton is a former IBF and WBA Super Bantamweight champion who took Santa Cruz’s crown by majority decision in Brooklyn last July 30th. The contest can be seen live on Showtime in the U.S. while fans in the UK can catch the action live on Sky Sports 1. Santa Cruz lost to Frampton last year while defending the title for the second time. He had won the vacant belt by beating Abner Mares in the summer of 2015.
The 29-year-old Frampton enters the ring with a perfect record of 23-0 with 14 Kos to his name. He’s fought 140 rounds since turning pro in 2009. The champion stands 5-feet-5-inches tall and has a 62-inch reach. Frampton has pretty good power and his current knockout ratio stands at 61 per cent. He’s also got a decent chin, but has been on the canvas before. Frampton’s biggest-name opponents so far have been Santa Cruz, Scott Quigg, Kiko Martinez and former world champ Steve Molitor of Canada. This is just Frampton’s second bout in the 126 lb. division.
The 28-year-old Santa Cruz, who fights out of the Los Angeles area, has an impressive record of 32-1-1 along with 18 Kos. He’s already won world bantamweight and junior featherweight titles, but decided to move up in weight and captured the vacant WBA featherweight belt when he beat fellow countryman Abner Mares by majority decision. Santa Cruz stands just over 5-feet-7-inches tall and has a wingspan of 69 inches. He has a 53 per cent knockout ratio and has fought 204 rounds since turning pro in 2006. His biggest wins have been against Martinez, Mares, Cristian Mijares, Victor Terrazas and Eric Morel.
Santa Cruz’s lone draw was a four-round affair against Rodrigo Hernandez in 2007 in his second pro bout. Santa Cruz has the edge in height and reach while Frampton arguably has more power. Their first meeting was a barn burner with give and take action on both sides and it was basically a decision that could have gone either way or could have ended in a draw. Santa Cruz needs to be very busy in the ring though throw punches in bunches if he hopes to retain the title while Frampton should try to work his way inside.
Like their first meeting, this won’t be an easy bout to predict since both boxers are capable of winning. Santa Cruz is more of a volume puncher than a knockout artist and he shouldn’t change his tactics here. He needs to fight in his usual nonstop manner and make better use of his seven-inch reach advantage and he also needs to be more accurate with his shots. It won’t be easy though as Frampton is a solid boxer with a good arsenal of punches and isn’t one to lose his concentration in the ring. He’s quite accurate with his punches, doesn’t waste many of them, and uses his jab to set up straight right hands and left hooks. He’s comfortable leading the way or counterpunching and his power is somewhat underrated. I picked Santa Cruz in the first fight and still think he has the skills to beat Frampton by close decision in the rematch.