Frampton embarks on American mission to become two-weight champion in Santa Cruz clash


Lee Gormley | July 4, 2016

Frampton set for Santa Cruz clash

After overcoming long-standing domestic rival Scott Quigg to unify the super-bantamweight division, Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton has embarked on his next mission to the United States, where he will look to become a two-weight world champion on July 30th.

A showdown with Mexico’s reigning WBA Super featherweight title holder Leo Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) awaits unbeaten Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) at the Barclays Center at the end of this month, as the pair prepare to collide in New York.

‘The Jackal’ made his debut on American soil last July when outpointing Alejandro Gonzalez Jr over 12 rounds in Texas, having twice plucked himself from the canvas in the opener, as he successfully retained the IBF super-bantamweight title.

Belfast’s unified champion then dispatched Manchester challenger Quigg to reign supreme at 122 pounds, and he will enter his latest bout against fellow undefeated fighter Santa Cruz at 6/5 with Coral to clinch the featherweight strap and become a two-division world champion.

‘The Jackal’ to learn from mistakes

Frampton has previously admitted that before his eventual unanimous decision success over Gonzalez Jr last year he made several mistakes in the build-up, but the 29-year-old has learnt from those and is ready for his latest scrap in the Big Apple.

“I am going over early for the fight as we learned a few lessons from my last fight in El Paso. I want to get there early to make sure I get over the travelling and get used to the time zone in New York,” said the Shore Road fighter.

The Northern Irishman said he arrived in Texas too late in his maiden American outing, not giving himself enough time to adjust to the conditions, and due to this had some problems in making weight and stuttered early on against Gonzalez Jr.

“This is the biggest fight of my life and I have to be ready,” Frampton added. “It is hard leaving my wife Christine and my to kids Carla and Rossa, but these are the sacrifices you have to make. Preparation is going well and I am looking forward to the fight. I am confident I can win and become a two-weight world champion.”

Trainer McGuigan backs travelling Frampton

Frampton’s split decision victory over Bury-born fighter Quigg in February was a fairly quiet match-up, being far from the explosive tussle that many expected, but he executed his gameplan strongly to come out on top in Manchester.

With the last bout having been a more tactical and cagey affair, Frampton’s trainer Shane McGuigan is preparing for a much more busy encounter this time out against the dangerous Santa Cruz, who is also yet to taste defeat in 33 professional ring outings.

“He’s [Frampton] looking really good, we’re really looking forward to this fight. With the Quigg fight, there was a lot of barking, not much biting, it just didn’t materialise. If they had it again, possibly. I think there was a gulf in class there though,” said McGuigan.

“The one thing with Leo Santa Cruz is that he always lets his hands go, when he’s moving forward or going back, he’s always punching. So, we have to dominate the rounds, it’s going to be the defining fight for Carl Frampton I believe.”

With an extra four pounds of breathing space in this 126lbs title showdown, McGuigan is also expecting Frampton to perform at a much higher level in New York, having encountered previous problems in the 122lbs clash last July.

“From what I’ve seen in the gym, he’s looking phenomenal,” he continued. “Going into the last week, not having to cut as much weight, he’ll be feeling nice and happy.

“He’s not a pressure fighter, he boxes off the back foot and Frampton uses his legs a lot, he’ll feel even stronger in the later rounds. We’ve added weight sessions in, so he’ll be stronger.”

Santa Cruz poses genuine threat to Frampton

Tiger’s Bay fighter Frampton undoubtedly faces his toughest career test on July 30th, with Mexican brawler Santa Cruz posing a genuine threat to his unblemished record after rocketing to further prominence last year.

The 27-year-old defending featherweight champion was already reputable before going into his thrilling encounter with Aber Mares last year, but his stock rocketed with victory over a gruelling 12 rounds.

Santa Cruz was awarded the judges’ decision for his more clear-cut work over the distance against compatriot Mares, with both fighters throwing over 2,000 punches between them, before going on to stop former Frampton victim Kiko Martinez inside five rounds.

The three-weight world champion will enter the latest defence of his WBA belt as the odds-on 4/6 favourite to prevail, but McGuigan believes the American crowd could witness a Frampton knockout success in this potential featherweight thriller.

“It’s going to be exciting, I’m excited to see his [Frampton’s] performance. I think footwork is important in this fight but I also think punching power, when you catch a guy coming forward who’s not been hit like that before,” continued McGuigan.

“He said Kiko Martinez was the strongest person he ever fought, and I think Frampton punches a lot harder than Martinez. When you’re moving forward and tired and taking shots, it’s hard, and you might see Carl stop him.”

Having already dipped his toe into the American fight scene last year, Frampton will now aim to complete his mission of becoming a two-weight world champion on his second shot in the United States, and bring another belt back to his homeland, in what has already been a successful year for sport in Northern Ireland.


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