The Big Question: Santa Cruz vs Frampton - who wins?
It is one of the match-ups of the year. The guile and power of Carl Frampton moving four pounds north to 126lbs to take on the relentless Leo Santa Cruz in Brooklyn, tonight, for the WBA World featherweight title.
A fight that doesn't need much selling, one that has a little bit of everything for everyone. It promises much and has the great potential to deliver. But who wins? The Boxing Monthly online team give their predictions.
As much as I will be rooting for Frampton, I see a valiant effort being turned back on a unanimous but close points decision, 116-112 ish. As good as Frampton is, Leo Santa Cruz is a bit exceptional: as the younger, taller, more experienced fighter who has rapidly grown up through three weight classes with world title runs.... I just think he's going to be slightly too much and will spoil the fairytale story of Frampton grabbing Barry McGuigan's old title. – Coin Harris
The recent history of top level featherweight clashes between British and Irish and Mexican or Mexican-American fighters would suggest Carl Frampton faces a tough night in Brooklyn on Saturday.
It was almost exactly 30 years ago when Frampton's manager Barry McGuigan surrendered his WBA title to underdog Stevie Cruz in the searing Las Vegas heat.
Seven years later in Dublin, Liverpool's Paul Hodkinson lost his WBC belt (hard won at the second attempt from Mexico's Marcos Villasana) and status as genuine division number one, stopped in seven against Mexican mandatory challenger Gregorio "Goyo" Vargas.
Although Naseem Hamed had turned back several Mexican challengers during his six-year featherweight reign, even the "Prince" was abruptly deposed from his throne in 2001 by one of the great Mexicans, Marco Antonio Barerra.
Given the quality of the match up, Santa Cruz v Frampton is strangely absent of hype. Almost 20 years ago the pre-fight buzz was off the scale for Hamed's own Big Apple debut, when the flashy Brit finished Kevin Kelley in the fourth of an up and down thriller at Madison Square Garden.
This clash, while unlikely to deliver quite the same thrills and spills, is another of those "can't miss" match ups. To my mind, Santa Cruz figures to be an incredibly difficult style match up for Frampton, with relentless work rate and significant advantages in height and reach.
Frampton is fleeter of foot and has demonstrated a sound boxing brain. The smaller man also showed mettle in coming back positively from suffering two opening round knockdowns in his previous US appearance, a year ago v Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. Despite those qualities, I favour the bigger, busier Santa Cruz to wear the Belfast man down to a stoppage in the final quarter of an exciting, surprisingly one sided contest. – Chris Williamson
Frampton showed in his victory over Scott Quigg that he could box to orders off the back foot against an opponent who's best chance of winning was to apply effective and constant aggression.
A surprisingly negative Quigg was unable to pressure Frampton enough in their meeting but I expect Leo Santa Cruz to bring a whole new level of work-rate to the party.
The questions that need answering in this fight, and ones we could find an answer to quite quickly are: Can Frampton hurt LSC enough to make the Mexican think twice about launching his marauding attacks? If he can I can see the Irishman boxing his way to a hard earned points decision. If not, Santa Cruz, who is a formidable proposition when in full flow, will be in his face all night and we could see him impress the judges enough to keep hold of his belt in a back and forth barnburner.
History suggests that a swarmer usually loses to a puncher eventually, but I'm not sure Carl has enough of a dig to knockout Santa Cruz at 126lbs and we will be left with a gruelling 12 round battle that Frampton nicks, just, on the cards. But I'm by no means confident! – Danny Winterbottom
This fight seems to be flying under the radar over here, which is nothing short of a travesty. Carl Frampton can not get enough credit for taking and winning the Scott Quigg fight, and then immediately moving on to this fight with Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz beat a faded Kiko Martinez in his last outing, and before that it was a career best win over Abner Mares and while it was an exciting fight and a solid win, it was a fight he was expected to win against a guy who had been stopped in a round and chopped and changed trainers. I think Santa Cruz has been well matched and this will be the biggest test of his career.
While I'm not sold on Santa Cruz as an elite fighter as yet, I see this as matchmaking designed to suit Santa Cruz. Frampton is a small featherweight at 5ft 5ins and I think the five inch reach advantage could be crucial here. That coupled with Santa Cruz's strong work ethic, leads me to believe that he'll triumph by decision in a fight that will be competitive throughout. – Callum Rudge
An intriguing fight. Many people seem to think that Frampton has bitten off more than he can chew in taking on the highly experienced, three-weight titlist Santa Cruz. However I know that the Frampton camp are super confident, and feel that their man is stronger and more determined than ever, and - more importantly - punching harder than ever.
I don't often pick against the favourite, but I've just got a feeling that Carl may land a big combination - possibly scoring a knockdown - which throws Santa Cruz off his rhythm and enables him to eke out a narrow and memorable decision victory. – Luke G. Williams
As we get nearer to the fight, I’m leaning slightly towards Leo Santa Cruz. I have wavered, though, back and forth, such is the Ulsterman’s quality. The key factors that have swayed me in “El Terremoto’s” direction are home advantage (on Santa Cruz’s part) and the Mexican’s straight right hand.
If the Super Six tournament (won by Andre Ward in 2011) showed us anything, it was that home advantage often proves telling when two well-matched fighters square off (which ostensibly is what we have here, despite Santa Cruz’s odds shortening to 4/11 on some books).
While the McGuigan’s have done well to bring the fight to New York rather than Vegas, Santa Cruz will still be the more comfortable there, despite Frampton’s vociferous support and the fact he’s been in town for a number of weeks.
Frampton will be the puncher of the two and is more likely to land something huge with one shot (and Santa Cruz does look open for a left hook). The favourite, though, will have good success picking the shorter Frampton off with crisp one-twos – punches likely to stir the crowd and find favor with the judges. And when Frampton does manage to close the distance, Santa Cruz will be all too happy to rumble with him on the inside. In a frustrating night for the visitors, I’ll go for Santa Cruz to eke out a close points win. – Andrew Harrison
The boxing brain of Frampton is one that could see him pull out an early lead in the opening half of the fight.
In now way do I see Frampton standing there and trading with Santa Cruz, not because LSC is blessed with huge KO power, but because his accumulation of punches could see Frampton having to endure a torrid final six rounds.
This is as 50-50 as it gets....
Frampton certainly looks healthier and stronger at 126lbs and possesses the kind of shots that could really hurt Santa Cruz and throw him off his game. I'm writing in short bursts here because I'm torn right now.
Okay, I'm backing Frampton's counter-punching to do a bit of a dance on LSC early on and potentially force a late stoppage of his own. Not that LSC is a one-trick pony but there are greater vulnerabilities of his that can be exploited. I'm really not buying an awful lot into his wins over a past his sell-by-date Kiko Martinez and an Abner Mares who has seen better days.
Frampton to triumph by late stoppage. - Shaun Brown
Final count: Santa Cruz 4 - Frampton 3
Image courtesy of Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME