Aftermath: Santa Cruz vs Frampton
It lived up the hype. Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton went toe-to-toe in Brooklyn last night and produced the kind of elite level fight that we don't see very often. Santa Cruz didn't stop pressing, Frampton had answers for everything and in the end edged the Mexican to become WBA featherweight champion after unifying belts at super-bantamweight. But in the aftermath, Boxing Monthly has some questions that need answering. Our online team members: Andrew Harrison, Jessica Sinyard and Luke Williams came up with some answers.
BM: First off, your assessment of the fight and how did you score it?
AH: I scored the fight 116-114 for Frampton (6-4-2- in rounds) but found a number of rounds difficult to score. It was often a case of Frampton’s quality over Santa Cruz’s quantity and hustle.
JS: An excellent fight. Frampton looked crisp, clean and effective in spite of some aggressive work from Santa Cruz. I thought the judge who had it 116-112 was spot on, but I could see a wide variety of scores on my twitter feed. It seemed to depend on whether people favoured sheer workrate or effectiveness. Fortunately the judges choose the latter.
LW: I thought it was an absolutely cracking fight. I actually scored it a draw, but you'll have no arguments from me about the verdict going to Frampton, particularly as I tipped him to win beforehand! It was one of those fights that makes you realise why you fell in love with boxing in the first place - two warriors giving their all, with no pointless name-calling or 'bad blood' before and after. How refreshing!
BM: Where was the fight won and lost for both men?
AH: I’m not sure Santa Cruz did a lot wrong. Frampton was hurting him early with some scorching punches and, as he did with Scott Quigg, the Ulsterman made LSC fight his fight. Frampton controlled the distance superbly well, made his punches count and was superb in defence. I was impressed with both.
JS: Santa Cruz did not fight tall or capitalise on any of his advantages. That’s in some way testament to the quality of Frampton’s efforts, but also Santa Cruz’s failure to establish the jab. He insisted on initiating and was quite easy to draw in and time as a result. For Frampton, his exceptional distance control allowed him to pick his shots and put power behind them. Frampton looked like he had been comfortable at the weight for years - and by his own account, that’s more or less true.
LG: I agree with Andrew on this. Santa Cruz actually fought a pretty good fight, but Carl's movement and judgement of distance just didn't quite allow him to land as many punches as he might otherwise have done. His jab and reach weren't quite the decisive factor people thought they would be because Carl's tactics and execution were so good. It was a tight call though - for me the two judges that gave it to Carl had it much too wide. As I said, I had it a draw, although if you'd asked me to look at the whole fight and say who I thought won I'd have said Carl, but narrowly.
BM: Were you surprised by Frampton's almost stubbornness in continuing to have a war with Santa Cruz, rather than boxing smart?
AH: I don’t think Frampton had a choice. He had to continually get Santa Cruz’s respect to stop him from chugging forward and finding his rhythm. You're not going to beat "El Terremoto" without having to battle at some point along the way.
JS: Although Santa Cruz is aggressive, he is not renowned for his power. But I had expected Frampton to be more wary following the [Alejandro] Gonzalez fight. Having said that, I think he took a few shots to see what Santa Cruz had to offer, so to speak, and was confident that he could do the more hurtful work. He looked resilient and effective at the weight and will have been keen to look effective in the judges' eyes. The outstanding crowd support would draw anyone into a war, I think! Frampton achieved an impressive balance of a crowd-pleasing and intelligent performance
LW: I wouldn't say that Frampton went to war, I think he was fighting more intelligently and artfully than that phrase implies. However, his willingness to engage with Santa Cruz and fight positively, and up close, was admirable. So often fighters seem reserved or over-cautious when it comes to the 'big fights'. Carl didn't display any of these tendencies though - he fought a positive, gutsy fight with an obvious and well-thought-out game-plan. Props to him for that!
BM: Where do both men go from here in their careers?
AH: I think a rematch is inevitable. In the meantime, they could both take attractive fights against the likes of Lee Selby or Gary Russell Jr.
JS: I would love a rematch for the atmosphere and respective fan bases. The Mexican and Irish crowd made things almost as memorable outside the ropes as inside them. But I know that Lee Selby has claimed he wanted the winner, and a fight with Guillermo Rigondeaux is the one on many fans’ lips.
LW: As Jess says, a rematch would be fantastic. I think the fact Santa Cruz took Frampton as a voluntary means that if the Mexican wants it then McGuigan and co. should oblige. I don't have that much interest in a Frampton versus Selby match-up, as I think Carl is a cut above Lee at the moment and would win with relative ease. Gary Russell Jr. would be an interesting challenge. I'm a purist though, and would love to see if Frampton could solve the Rigondeaux riddle. On the basis of last night's performance he would have a great chance.
BM: Let's talk rankings. Is Frampton now Britain's number one fighter? Where does this place 'The Jackal' in the pound-for-pound ratings? Has he just entered the top 10?
AH: Frampton is Britain’s best fighter, yes. He’s taken the big fights and won them. He may not have proven himself top man at either 122 or 126 lbs. but he’s beaten two top fighters in both of those divisions on the spin. I think if you were looking to list the best fighters in boxing currently, Frampton would have to come into the argument. He’s taking on tough challenges and winning them (on the road, too).
JS: I think on the basis of that measured, effective performance against an opponent who looked exceptionally dangerous on paper, Carl is looking like one of the very best in Britain. It’s one of my favourite performances of the year and was close to pitch perfect. Under the pressure of a major crowd, an undefeated champion, and a new weight division, that should count for a lot in P4P.
LW: Yes, I'd definitely put Carl up there as the best British boxer right now P4P. I'd probably sneak him in the world top t10 as well. His performance last night, particularly considering the quality and experience of Santa Cruz, was outstanding.
Image courtesy of Ed Diller/DiBella Entertainment