The Big Question: Would Santa Cruz beat Selby, Quigg and Frampton?
Following his career-best win over Abner Mares at the weekend, how would a rejuvenated Leo Santa Cruz fare against UK world champions Lee Selby, Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton?
Leo Santa Cruz surprised me on Saturday night. He looked a bigger, stronger fighter than the aggressive Mares and boxed brilliantly at times. One particular sequence has stayed lodged in my mind. Late in the fight, he stepped and spun away from the ropes whilst maintaining perfectly balance and distance. I have been trying to work out if I was surprised that he was capable of demonstrating such footwork or whether his recent run of appalling opponents have clouded my memory of just how good Santa Cruz is. I’m going to side with the latter.
Hopefully, Santa Cruz is kept at a level where he obviously feels threatened and knows that anything below his best won’t be good enough and Selby, Quigg and Frampton would each ask stern questions of him. Selby is a massive featherweight and extremely awkward, I don’t think Al Haymon will be rushing to make that fight. Fights with Quigg and Frampton should have happened at 122lbs and, as late as last week, I would have picked both British fighters to beat Santa Cruz. Witnessing him take apart a fighter of Mares’ quality swings the pendulum back in Santa Cruz’s favour slightly, but I still see both Quigg and Frampton providing him with all the trouble he can handle. - John Evans.
A lot is going to depend on who is moving where in regards to future weight jumps or drops. Santa Cruz looked impressive overall against Mares and showed a side that is too often not seen from him. Mares, at times, was a tad reckless and allowed his rival to be comfortable on the outside and the inside.
Should he move back down to super-bantam or remain at feather, and should Frampton and Quigg stay or move up, I would tip the Mexican against both. Yes, before Mares it had been too long before he had faced an opponent who would hang tough with him and ask questions of him. But Saturday's win should be used as a catalyst, a turning point in the development of Santa Cruz's career. His mixed bag of tools should now be showcased each and every time. I believe his abilities would outwork Frampton and Quigg. I don't think either would fare too well fighting in the pocket nor would I favour them from range. Not that I'm saying it would be a wide margin of victory for Santa Cruz I just happen to think he's wrong in so many departments for Frampton and Quigg.
Lee Selby is an entirely different animal. He would present problems for Santa Cruz that Frampton and Quigg don't have in their locker. He could frustrate Santa Cruz and force him into war machine mode throwing a gazillion punches a round but Selby has the movement to make that tactic a long night for Leo whilst getting shots off on his own.
In conclusion, I would favour Santa Cruz against Frampton and Quigg at either 122lbs or 126lbs but I would pick Selby over Santa Cruz at 126lbs. - Shaun Brown.
In terms of size, Santa Cruz matches up well with Frampton (5’5”), but his height/length would be neutralized against Quigg and Selby (both 5’8”). f a tall prospect like Alejandro Gonzalez Jr could trouble Frampton during their bout in July, a longer, stronger, more experienced and talented Santa Cruz would give him absolute hell. Quigg and Selby haven’t faced an opponent on the level of Santa Cruz, but their size and skills would make for fascinating match-ups. The Mexican-American would be a slight favorite but location, officiating and judging would play a huge role in those potential fights. Sadly, due to politics, they will never happen. - Michael Montero.
Mainly, because of the natural size advantage, but also the combination of power and flair, of the three British fighters, I think Lee Selby would be the biggest challenge to Leo Santa Cruz, who was fighting at bantamweight until 2013.
It may be lazy to say Santa Cruz against Frampton or Quigg would be 50/50 fights, but I’d be lying if I said I feel strongly for any one result.
Raucous home support and adrenalin will make Frampton tough work for anybody in Belfast, where I’d expect him to outwork Santa Cruz. If it was in the United States, the familiarity of home advantage would likely reverse the outcome.
Scott Quigg showed urgency against Kiko Martinez and performed extremely well on the big stage. He wouldn’t fear Santa Cruz, but if they were matched next, because of more time in a bigger spotlight, I would just favour the Mexican-American.
If Santa Cruz is matched against any of Selby, Frampton, or Quigg, I wouldn’t expect many arguments from fans if Pay-Per-View was mentioned. Here’s hoping. - Martin Chesnutt, TKO Radio.
It’s a field that is constantly shifting. A year ago, Frampton looked to be the standout fighter of this unbeaten quartet; however, Santa Cruz, Selby and Quigg have all subsequently recorded career-best victories, whereas Frampton appeared vulnerable for the first time this summer against Alejandro Gonzalez.
After reaffirming his credentials against Mares, Santa Cruz would be favoured over the UK trio. Even with the firepower they unleashed upon Kiko Martinez and Evgeny Gradovich respectively, both Quigg and Selby would need to improve defensively in order to derail “El Terremoto” – who displayed impressive poise in LA. Frampton, on the other hand, despite his struggle with “Cobrita” Gonzalez Jr, has shown the necessary ring IQ, skill and power to match Santa Cruz. Home advantage, you feel, would prove crucial. - Andrew Harrison.
I don't see Santa Cruz going back down to 122, especially with the WBA's last-minute sanctioning making him a legit (as best as I can say that without chuckling) world champ at [his new] weight...... so I don't see Frampton or Quigg in the picture, at least for now. Lee Selby? That's a tough one - I think Selby would have every chance to win but I'd like to see him have another couple of big fights first, so for now I'd pick Santa Cruz on a close points win due to his big fight experience. - Colin Harris.
Santa Cruz looked like a natural featherweight on Saturday and I don't see him coming back to 122 for either of those fights so any match would have to be at feather and it would clearly suit Santa Cruz at that weight. Selby though is a different proposition with the size and style to trouble Santa Cruz. My picks would be for Santa Cruz to eke close decisions over Frampton and Quigg but lose a wide one to Selby. I don't see any of these fights happening before a Mares rematch though. - Callum Rudge.
Photo: Sumio Yamada.