Ahead of their first bout last year, the jury was still out on both Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz. While their talent was unquestionable, their legitimacy as truly elite fighters were yet to be established, but there was no doubt at the end of their 12 round war last June that these two are indeed among the best in the world.
Frampton ultimately prevailed in a bout that seemed at times too close to call. A rematch was inevitable, and thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long to get it.
So will Frampton close the book on Santa Cruz once and for all? Or can Santa Cruz force a trilogy and recapture his title in the process?
Much of how this fight will go down this time around is more about what Santa Cruz can do differently, if anything. In their first fight, Santa Cruz was unable to be first in many of their exchanges and was also unable to deal with Frampton’s speed and movement. Not to mention that Santa Cruz’s aggressed went for naught as Frampton out-fought him in the trenches, and while the fight was competitive, Frampton was the better man in all aspects of their first contest.
A big miss for Santa Cruz was an almost absent attack to the body, especially as Frampton began slowing down in the later rounds. Perhaps it was from his own fatigue as Frampton’s counters and constant movement took their toll until Santa Cruz had no choice but to force the action.
If Santa Cruz had trouble pinning Frampton down to do establish his offense the first time around, it is unlikely he will be able to do it any better this time around. Frampton not only showed that he packed a punch, even wobbling Santa Cruz early on, but he was able to take his fair share of abuse and still came out looking like the stronger man.
While Santa Cruz may have been insistent of a rematch, six months may not be enough time to change his game plan to offset Frampton. Plodding forward won’t work as Frampton can either use the ring or his superior speed and power if he decides to train and trying to operate on the outside isn’t going to work either for similar reasons.
Should Frampton trap himself in the corner or limits his range of motion to fight off of the ropes, that will be exactly where Santa Cruz needs to press his attack. Of course, this scenario also comes with the likelihood that he’ll fall behind early and have to take punishment along the way.
The lesson we learned in their first fight was that while Frampton and Santa Cruz are among the very best at 126, there is really nothing Santa Cruz can do better than Frampton or give him something he didn’t see the first time around. Whereas Santa Cruz will have to try to win again with grit and aggression, Frampton knows he can out-fight and out-box his opponent and will be more methodical in his approach.
The call here is for Carl Frampton to repeat over Leo Santa Cruz in a fast-paced, but more tactical affair than their classic brawl, while winning in a much more convincing fashion that leaves neither man none the lesser.
Mikey Garcia will be making the second fight of his comeback against the very dangerous Dejan Zlaticanin for Zlaticanin’s WBC Lightweight title. While an upset wouldn’t exactly be uncalled for, Zlaticanin’s overly aggressive approach is going to play right into Garcia’s hands as he has he moments early but gets stopped late leaving Garcia the new WBC champion at 135 pounds.
HBO hopes that their doubleheader featuring Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura can sway the hardcore fans as a competing card, but this might end up being the fights that wins the DVR battle. Vargas and Miura should both get past Miguel Bercheldt and Miguel Roman respectively while taking some serious damage along the way, hopefully setting up an eventual rematch of their 2015 Fight of the Year.
Danny Howard is 1-1 Year to Date.