Frampton vs Santa Cruz: Act Two

Okay, now that it’s clear the chances of Carl Frampton or Leo Santa Cruz ever facing one Guillermo Rigondeaux are getting slimmer and slimmer (if they haven’t evaporated altogether), both men can enjoy success and popularity without ever having to fight an individual who, in all likelihood, might well beat them. Still, Frampton and Santa Cruz deserve immense credit for their willingness to make an immediate rematch after their thrilling, and gruelling, first contest.

This gumption at least elevates them from the Billy Joe Saunders/Adonis Stevenson realm. It’s not, after all, as if they don’t like challenges; they simply have no interest in a high risk, low reward opponent like Rigo. I honestly don’t care for that kind of avoidance, but then again, I only write about boxing rather than participate in it directly.

With that in mind, it’s time to focus on Frampton vs Santa Cruz, part II. Their first fight, in New York last year, was frankly quite exciting and satisfying to watch. Frampton proved the more skilled of the two in that affair and won a hard-earned decision. This next throwdown will occur in Las Vegas and Santa Cruz, if memory serves, seemed a bit surprised by the pro-Frampton crowd on the east coast for the first fight. Why the man was surprised by an Irishman being popular in New York gives me pause, but I’m a product of the northeastern United States, so perhaps I shouldn’t make any assumptions.

I bring up the crowd in New York because Santa Cruz seemed to feel the pro-Frampton sentiment impacted the fight itself. Will things prove to be different in Vegas this weekend when the two meet again? Well, there’s certainly a smaller Irish population in Nevada and California than there is on the east coast. Still, Vegas has packed in huge European audiences recently, so it’s hard to say exactly which way the crowd will go. Had this rematch gone down in, say, Texas, I’ve little doubt the Mexican-American Santa Cruz would have the live audience behind him. Vegas, though? It’s difficult to call.

However, when all is said and done, crowd size should ultimately not impact a fighter’s performance. It’s a professional’s job to see through such things, after all. With that in mind, I’ve little doubt Santa Cruz will step into the ring Saturday night mentally prepared for whatever way the live audience is leaning. I also agree with other analysts who believe Santa Cruz will be more aggressive against Frampton earlier on than he was in the first bout. To be sure, I think this should prove to once again be an exciting bout. In other words, it’s doubtful the fans will be disappointed.

That said, can anyone expect a different result this time around? In all honesty, it seems as if Frampton has more in his toolbox than Santa Cruz does. As I’ve written elsewhere, Frampton can be reminiscent of Roberto Duran one moment and then recall Gene Tunney the next. That kind of versatility is difficult to beat. Santa Cruz, however, brings it — in a big way, too. The man’s a real fighter, make no mistake about it. That means no one knows how Frampton will react if Santa Cruz is perpetually in overdrive from the word “go” this weekend.

Should Frampton be the favourite on Saturday? Sure. But no one should write-off Santa Cruz. In truth, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Leo pulled off the upset, setting the stage for a third go ’round. Great fighters make adjustments and no one knows if Santa Cruz has found a way to adapt to Frampton yet. If he has, things will be very interesting indeed. Again, there’s a reason people are looking forward to this rematch. There’s a lot of tactical nuance involved to complement the promise of raw action.

There’s also a compelling co-feature between Mikey Garcia and Dejan Zlaticanin in a scrap for Zlaticanin’s WBC world lightweight title. Both fighters are undefeated and there really is no guarantee that the popular Garcia will emerge victorious from this battle. In other words, Garcia has actively sought out a stern challenge for himself. Zlaticanin possesses a sound set of skills that might very well allow him to emerge victorious. Indeed, Saturday’s entire card, which will be aired on Showtime, is essential viewing for fight fans.

Hopefully, the buzz will reach beyond the fight world to those who need a justification to watch boxing after the Mayweather-Pacquaio snoozer turned off so many. Unfortunately, Showtime rival HBO will be airing its own card on that same night, which creates a strange scenario when one considers the fact that HBO hasn’t had a whole lot of interest in broadcasting non-Pay-Per-View cards lately. The big fights this weekend, however, will be found on Showtime. Both Frampton vs Santa Cruz and Zlaticanin vs Garcia are well worth the attention they’re receiving.

— Sean Crose

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