SAN DIEGO, July 29, 2016 – Although Irish super bantamweight champion Carl Frampton (22-0-0, 14 KOs), will be 3,170 miles from his home in Belfast, he’s likely to be the de facto hometown favorite in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center Saturday when he steps up in weight to take on undefeated featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) of Los Angeles. It’s the first appearance in New York for both men. Thanks to the partisan Irish and Irish-American fans, Frampton will feel right at home.
Santa Cruz will have supporters too, and all fans should be geared up for an enjoyable showdown between the two champions. Those who complain about the best not fighting the best have nothing to say about this contest Santa Cruz vs. Frampton will air on Premier Boxing Champions on Showtime Championship Boxing Saturday, July 30, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Santa Cruz is one of Premier Boxing’s biggest stars. He showed his signature win last summer over Abner Mares was no fluke when he made quick work of the Spanish veteran Kiko Martinez in February. Santa Cruz now holds a legitimate place as one of the best fighters in his division who is as fan friendly as he is skilled, a winning combination.
On the same day in February, Frampton ground out a tough decision against Scott Quigg in Manchester, England. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. Following the bout, Frampton decided to move up in weight to take on Santa Cruz.
“It’s getting big this week. It’s real. I’m completely up for it,” Frampton said. “I’m excited to bring a big crowd over here and I’m going to do everything I can to have my hand raised.
“This is a dream of mine. To come to America and box is something I’ve always wanted to do. Barclays Center is taking over as the best venue in New York and I’m going to look to put on a world-class performance,” Frampton said.
“I want to make it a war,” said Santa Cruz. “Carl Frampton is a great fighter and he makes for an interesting fight. I’m excited to perform in front of the fans,”
“The last time I was an underdog was 2009 during the Irish championships. I was a massive underdog and everyone who knew me won a lot of money that night,” Frampton pointed out.
“Leo is a great fighter. He’s world class. Easily the toughest opponent that I’ve faced so far. But I think I’m Leo’s best opponent as well. I think this has all the ingredients to be a top quality fight. I’ve had a hard training camp and I’m ready to leave everything in the ring.”
Frampton said all the pressure is on Santa Cruz, not on him. “I’m here to put on a great performance and bring the belt back home.
“I think that this is the perfect time for this fight,” said Santa Cruz. We’re both undefeated and in the prime of our careers … I think our styles are both very exciting. I can’t wait for Saturday night. This is the right fight. I’m hoping that both of us come forward and give the fans a show.
“This could definitely be a career-defining fight,” said Santa Cruz. “I think getting a win over Carl Frampton will get me to the next level. I think the winner of the fight will be considered one of the best fighters in the world.”
Santa Cruz has extra motivation on his side. His father and trainer, Jose Santa Cruz, was diagnosed with bone cancer in April. Leo Santa Cruz briefly considered not taking this fight, but his father insisted. Older brother Antonio stepped in to assist with training.
Jose Santa Cruz is responding well to treatment, and will be in his son’s corner as he always has on Saturday. “I’m really happy to be here. I’ve been at all of Leo’s fights and it’s great to be at this one. This is just another reason to be happy. I’m so thrilled for Leo that he has this opportunity and to be here for him,” said Jose Santa Cruz.
Frampton has a bit of extra motivation as well. If he wins, he will take home the title once held by his manager, former world champion and Hall of Fame boxer Barry McGuigan. “Obviously I have enough motivation on my own, but it would be nice to bring back the title that Barry (McGuigan) once owned. It feels a bit like destiny for me. It’s my turn to win it back for him. I’m doing this for my whole team. I’m doing this for my family and I’m doing this for my entire country,” said Frampton.
Both Santa Cruz and Frampton have met each other’s extended families including children and all of them traveled to the Empire State Building for photos, enjoying each other’s company. But all of this will be set aside as they turn their attention to the challenge before them Saturday, pledging to put on a phenomenal Fight of the Year performance.
Both fighters made weight on Friday. Frampton looks strong at the heavier weight. Santa Cruz has a 2.5 inch height advantage and seven inch reach advantage. His punch rate is far higher than Frampton’s, although his knockout percentage is lower.
Santa Cruz showed he could take some punishment against Mares, also a far shorter opponent. Frampton is determined in the ring; he’s been knocked down and knows how to put it behind him and carry on which could be an asset Saturday. Count on this fight to go the distance unless Frampton’s corner decides to stop it in the later rounds if he’s taken too much punishment from Santa Cruz.
On the undercard, Mikey Garcia (34-0-0, 28 KOs) returns to the ring after a lengthy absence due in part to a contract dispute and in part to his other interests. He will face former world champion Elio Rojas of the Dominican Republic (24-2-0, 14 KOs). Garcia was enar the top of the sport when he walked away after a bout in January 2014 and sued his former promoter, Top Rank. The legal mess has kept him out of the ring until now.
Garcia still kept up his training at his family’s gym in Oxnard, training under his brother Robert and occasionally stepping in as a sparring partner, including for Marcos Maidana before he fought Floyd Mayweather. Garcia says he feels no pressure entering the ring Saturday.
“To me, it’s just another day at the office. I have faith in my abilities and confidence in what I can do as a boxer. I’m excited to be back. I’m going to go in there and take care of business like I always do. The New York fans have always showed me a lot of love and support. No matter what, they’re in for a good boxing match,” said Garcia.
Brother and trainer Robert Garcia says he expects Mikey to put on a great performance, even if there is a little rust showing. “Anything could happen in boxing. Mikey should look good and he should win convincingly. I think the interest that people have in Mikey’s future shows how much potential he has. He’s a guy who could be a big name to help carry the sport.”
On the early undercard broadcast on Showtime Extreme at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, one fight you should not miss is the “Brooklyn Belt” battle between fight analyst Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi (35-7, 7 KOs) and Gabriel Bracero (24-2, 5 KOs), both Brooklyn natives.
Malignaggi has carved out a good career as a boxing analyst after a middling career as a boxer. Malignaggi keeps answering the same question this week: why would he risk getting back in the ring and getting hurt at this stage? Malignaggi tells it this way: “This fight gives me an opportunity to keep dreaming in that ring. I have an opportunity to do some things that people don’t think I’m able to, but I feel like I still can. I’m going to put my skills to good use and accomplish what I’m set out to do.
“It’s not about impressing myself, it’s about getting the job done to the best of my abilities. I want to prove to people that I still have more left than they think,” said Malignaggi. Win lose or draw, Malignaggi will hit the showers and get dressed to join the broadcast team for the Showtime broadcast.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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