SAN DIEGO, July 30, 2016 – There’s no denying it. One of the most exciting moments in boxing is hearing the words “And the new” at the end of a competitive fight to announce a brand new champion.
When Irish featherweight Carl “The Jackal” Frampton heard those words, his entire team and many of the 9,062 fans at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn let out a roar. Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) won the WBA featherweight title with a majority decision victory over Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) of Los Angeles. Scores from the judges were 114-114, 116-112, and 117-111.
“It was a tough fight; I wanted it to be a tough fight because I wanted a fight the people could remember,” said Frampton. “I respect him a lot. He was a true warrior.” Frampton won a title once held by his manager, Barry McGuigan, making the victory especially sweet for his team.
The fight was nonstop action from the opening bell. Frampton’s foot speed allowed him to evade most of Santa Cruz’s offense in the first few rounds. Frampton fought in the opening rounds as if he was already in the championship rounds with no reason to hold anything back. His Irish fans cheered with every punch landed, and there was a lot for them to cheer, especially a left hook that momentarily wobbled Santa Cruz in the second round, and an impressive upper cut in the third round.
Santa Cruz stayed close to Frampton, which eliminated his considerable reach advantage as the taller righter. It allowed Frampton to score with an arsenal of varied punches to the head and to the body.
As the action slowed to a more reasonable pace through the middle rounds, it was impressive to watch the much smaller Frampton picking off most of Santa Cruz’s punches, countering many due to his hand speed. Frampton controlled the ring and the pace.
Santa Cruz’s corner began conveying the urgency of his situation and he began to land his punches more effectively on Frampton, perhaps finally having enough rounds with him to anticipate his punches better. In the final rounds, Santa Cruz did his best to end the fight, believing he was behind on the scorecards. It made for a spectacular end to a Fight of the Year candidate.
The CompuBox stats tell the story: Santa Cruz threw 1,002 punches in 12 rounds, landing 255 (25 percent); Frampton threw fewer punches but for greater accuracy, 242 of 668 punches (36 percent).
Frampton said he would “love to give [Santa Cruz] a rematch” at home in Belfast. Frampton also named Lee Selby of England and American Gary Russell Jr. as possible future opponents.
A disappointed Santa Cruz said he believed the crowd affected the judges’ scorecards. “Every little punch, they cheered for him. Maybe [somewhere else] it would’ve been a draw,” said Santa Cruz. “He had a difficult style, but we know his style and will get him in the rematch.”
There is no shame in losing a fight of such quality and excitement. Fans will eagerly await a rematch and will welcome any fight featuring either Frampton or Santa Cruz who proved themselves among the best boxers in the world. Frampton has made a good case as the 2016 Fighter of the Year with his win Saturday and his victory earlier this year over Scott Quigg.
On the undercard, Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) initially looked rusty as his fight with Elio Rojas (24-3,14 KOs got underway in Brooklyn. Observers gave the first two rounds to Rojas. But that was it. Garcia came to life in the third round and let his hands go, dropping Rojas first with a left hand, and seconds later with a brutal right hand for a 10-7 round to Garcia. It was a dramatic turning of the tide. Rojas recovered enough to get through a fourth round. Garcia then dropped Rojas twice more in the fifth round, and the referee stopped the bout at 2:02 of the round. An angry Rojas pounded the canvas with his fists at the stoppage.
It was exactly the return performance Garcia needed after being out of the ring since January 2014. “It was a very good performance. Even though I’ve been gone two and half years, I’m more motivated than before” said Garcia. Garcia showed good footwork and while his defense could use a little polish, he’s headed for fights with top competition. How about handing Garcia to the winner of the rumored October bout between Terry Flanagan and Dejan Zlaticanin?
Middleweight Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) scored a ninth round TKO over opponent Sergey Rabchenko (27-2, 20 KOs) of Belarus, winning the IBF title eliminator and setting Harrison up for a chance to fight Jermall Charlo for the IBF junior middleweight title. You could call Harrison patient, but you could also call the fight lackluster until Harrison caught Rabchenko with a straight right to the head. Although Rabchenko got up, that was all it took for referee Arthur Mercante to stop the bout.
Paulie Malignaggi (36-7, 7 KOs) won his “Battle of Brooklyn” with a unanimous decision over Gabriel Bracero (24-3, 5 KOs). Then he cleaned himself up and joined the Showtime broadcast team to provide commentary on the main event. Way to collect two paychecks in a single night, Paulie.
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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