One of 2016’s best fights is about to be fought again.
In July of last year, Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KO’s) sought to defend his WBA featherweight title against Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KO’s), a former unified super bantamweight champion, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Santa Cruz, who has captured world titles in three weight classes, was favored to defeat the pride of Belfast.
Instead, it was Frampton who came out on top in an all-action slugfest, handing Santa Cruz his first career defeat. “The Jackal” took home a majority decision and became the first Irish-born fighter to win world titles in two weight divisions. Also on that night, Frampton earned the title of “The Great Irish Champion” and thrust himself into conversations of being one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Now, on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the two warriors will do it again. The first fight was a top-three candidate for fight of the year in 2016 and it is reasonable to expect another great fight. Santa Cruz is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport.
Santa Cruz is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. He is known for throwing a large volume of punches, regularly topping 100 punches thrown in a round, and overwhelming his opponents with volume. His size also is a big advantage for him. At 5-7 1/2 with a 69-inch reach, “El Terremoto” is a big, rangy featherweight that can keep his opponents at the end of his bunches of punches.
Frampton may just be his perfect stylistic dance partner. At 5-5 with a 62-inch reach, Frampton is at a deficit in the length department but makes up for it with great ring sense. The Irishman is a brilliant dictator of range and was able to get inside on Santa Cruz regularly in fight number one. He is also a brilliant counter-puncher with good power, allowing him to make Santa Cruz pay for throwing recklessly.
This is a terrific style match-up that saw both fighters perform at a very high level in the first fight, six months ago. But there is one variable that could change this fight.
In the lead up to their first encounter, Santa Cruz’s father, Jose, was fighting cancer and undergoing treatment in the lead-up to the fight. He ultimately was able to corner his son on fight night, but the younger Santa Cruz admitted that his father’s battle was hard on him, and harmed his focus in training camp. But now, everything has seemed to have, thankfully, gone just fine at surface level and the Santa Cruz’s seem focused and ready to go.
This fight is one that any fight fan cannot afford to miss. Not only is the main event a guaranteed barnburner, there are two other world title fights on the undercard.
The undefeated Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KO’s) seeks a title belt in his third weight class when he takes on WBC lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KO’s) in an intriguing fight. Also on the card, IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby (23-1, 8 KO’s), of Wales, will defend his belt against Jonathan Victor Barros (41-4-1. 22 KO’s).
A win by Selby could set up a big fight for him in the future, as Frampton has frequently discussed a unification fight with him, should they both win on Saturday night, in what would be a huge event in the UK.
But as boxing fans, we can enjoy these bouts on Saturday night, as we could witness another magical fight between the two best 126-pound fighters in the world.