This Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas we see the rematch of WBA featherweight champion Carl Frampton 23-0 (14ko’s) v Leo Santa Cruz 32-1-1 (18ko’s), the former champion who lost the belt to Frampton in their first fight back in July 2016.
The original fight took place at the Barclays Center in New York with Frampton winning by majority decision, despite most people having him the clear winner. Nevertheless Frampton put on a blistering performance and derailed the wheels of the feared Mexican, who was the favourite at the time.
Frampton is the older man by just one year but going into the fight Santa Cruz definitely had the experience on his side when it comes to resume. Santa Cruz being a three weight world champion and Frampton picking up world honors just the super bantamweight division, Santa Cruz was the more accomplished fighter.
Frampton was coming off a career high performance as he won a split decision victory against Scott Quigg in the Manchester Arena in February 2016. Having half of Belfast making their way over to support him as their man broke Quigg’s jaw, he took his belt and left as the unified Super bantamweight champion.
Santa Cruz was coming off the back of some impressive wins also, knocking out Kiko Martinez and beating a world-class fighter in Abner Mares who has gone on to pick up a world title against Jesus Cuellar.
It must be noted that for the pairs first fight, Santa Cruz’ father who is normally in his corner and trains him was battling cancer and was not present at the fight as he wasn’t able to attend.
The fight started with both men showing respect for each others ability and being very wary of the power each man possesses but in the second round Santa Cruz was buckled as Frampton caught him cleanly on the side of the head, showing immediate warning signs that Santa Cruz could be in for a tough night.
The first few rounds were incredibly close but Frampton was edging them as his ability to counter punch and pick his shots more precisely gave him the upper hand as he relied on his impeccable timing, and Santa Cruz began to grow more frustrated as the fight went on.
Frampton had the first half of the fight in the bag and was starting to slow down in the middle rounds, with Santa Cruz putting on pressure through the third quarter of the fight. But as they came down the final straight of the championship rounds, Frampton had done enough to hold on and edge it right at the last.
Frampton’s hand was lifted victorious as he became a two weight world champion and its fair to say the right man had definitely won. The fight was brilliant and the two men showed exceptional talent, but Santa Cruz seemed to run out of options.
Frampton went on to pick up numerous fighter of the year awards and his trainer and long-term friend Shane McGuigan also picked up trainer of the year awards as he cemented himself as one of the UK’s hottest trainers.
This Saturday we see the pair back in action as they square off in another potential fight of the year candidate and Santa Cruz will have his father in his corner this time. You have to take into account the effect this could have on a fighter without having your long-term trainer and dad in your corner, so this will be in his favour.
However Frampton showed the higher intelligence in the ring last time out and looked as if he had an answer for all of Santa Cruz’ questions, also making Santa Cruz respect his power after almost putting him down early on.
Frampton goes into the fight as the bookies favourite this time around and a win would be lining him up for a huge homecoming unification fight with IBF featherweight Lee Selby, and a loss would probably result in the pair creating a trilogy.
Chief support on this card is an incredible fight and has potential to steal the show as we see two undefeated fighters putting their records on the line in a division full of serious talent. We have WBC Lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin 22-0 (15ko’s) v Mikey Garcia 35-0 (29ko’s).
Garcia will be hoping to add this title to his duo of world honors as he is already a world champion in two divisions. He is stepping up to face a man who for a while now has been hugely underrated, and will certainly be causing problems.
Mikey Garcia at one point was looking like he was on course in becoming one of the best of the business, but after a legal dispute with his promoter Top Rank caused issues, we saw him inactive for 2 years and in 2014 he put a halt on his career.
At the time Garcia had picked up huge momentum and looked like there would be no one that could stop him, with only 6 of his fights going the distance in 35 contests, he certainly has extremely dangerous power.
He was viewed by many as the heir to the throne of the greats that had ruled the roost for so long as he was cleaning out everyone put in front of him, and he now is back in world title contention as he takes on Montenegrin fighter Zlaticanin.
His opponent and current WBC champion is a tricky southpaw, who has defied the odds again and again and picked up some very credible victorious wins such as Ivan Redkach, Petr Petrov & Ricky Burns on his resume.
Garcia would expect to come on strong in the early stages of the fight but if Zlaticanin can withstand his power, you would imagine in the latter stages of the fight that Garcia will start to feel that 2 year hiatus from the sport as Zlaticanin will still be pushing him back and putting the gas on.
Garcia will be the slight favourite with the bookmakers going into the fight due to his previous achievements however Zlaticanin is certainly not an opponent to be taken lightly. The winner of this will go on to fight the winner of Linares v Crolla II.
When Crolla originally faced Jorge Linares he had his WBA Lightweight belt on the line, but the WBC diamond belt was also up for grabs with the opportunity to face Zlaticanin straight after.
Linares won the fight by unanimous decision and was in line to face Zlaticanin, however Eddie Hearn pulled some strings and got out his brown envelope, ensuring the rematch would happen.
Lee Selby 23-1 will also be appearing on the card as he takes on former world champion Jonathan Barros 41-4-1 as he puts his IBF featherweight title on the line in a tricky defence of his title
Selby will be the clear favourite in the fight however it will be a fun fight to watch as Barros will not be coming to lie down as his impressive resume shows us.Selby picked up the title back in 2015, beating Evgeny Gradovich but has since not shown his full potential.
He will be hoping for Santa Cruz to come out on top on Saturday as he will be knocking on his door for a huge unification fight either in Belfast or Wales as the two would be putting their titles on the line.
The rest of the fighters that are on the card can be seen below with linkes to all of their boxrec profiles, but all in all its a cracking card of boxing. Even more better knowing that you it’s not a pay per view event!
(Click to see each fighters boxrec profile)