Carl Frampton [23(14)-0] defends his WBA featherweight title for the first time tonight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas where he will take on Leo Santa Cruz [32(18)-1(0)-1] in a hotly-anticipated rematch.
‘The Jackal’ is a slight favourite with the bookies to pull off a repeat victory, but there are plenty of factors which may play a part in the outcome of the fight.
Below Irish-Boxing.com takes a look at some things, of varying importance, which may influence the bout.
Frampton thrives off the fantastic support he receives from ‘The Jackal Army.’ and the arena tonight looks set to be packed with 5,000 travelling fans. This number is far larger than the estimated 1,200 that made the trip over to New York for the first fight. However, that night at the Barclays Centre, Frampton also attracted the cheers of a sizeable number of Irish-Americans living in the New York area as well as plenty of Irish students who were based in the Big Apple for the Summer on J1 Student Visas. Santa Cruz can also expect a much larger number of followers in the arena tonight – however it should be noted that a further three major Mexican fighters (Francisco Vargas, Miguel Roman, and Miguel Berchelt) are in action tonight at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, which will undoubtedly dilute his support somewhat.
The Ring and The Canvas
Frampton secured a large ring and a firm canvas for the first fight which he help facilitate the brilliant footwork that his victory was founded on. This time round it is hoped for more of the same, much to Frampton’s benefit, and the Daily Mirror report that the ring tonight will be the same one used by the maestro that is Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The Groin Guard
Team Santa Cruz have objected to the groin guard used by Frampton and it’s placement, which they claim is too high. This would indicate that they intend to go to the body to try and slow Frampton down. While the behind-the-scenes negotiations are not known, regardless of what equipment Frampton uses, referee Kenny Bayless will now be very aware of the placement of the guard throughout the fight.
Sports fans and broadcasters love stories, and a three-fight series with a massive deciding bout is something which would appeal to many stakeholders. There is a natural worry that this narrative may take over, especially now with potential unification opponent Lee Selby off the card, and that this may unconsciously influence the judges scoring the bout. Frampton will need to make it clear.
After building an early lead in the first fight, Frampton would allow Santa Cruz to claw his way back into the fight by standing and trading, looking to entertain. As his previous two fights were a relatively tepid win over Scott Quigg and a victory over Alejandro Gonzalez Jr that saw him downed twice, Frampton felt the need to please – at times to his own detriment. This time round it seems likely that the Tigers Bay boxer will fight smarter. While it wont be a ‘stinker’ by any means, tonight’s clash may not be as much of a fire-fight as last time.
For Frampton, the first meeting last year was a step into the unknown as he fought a championship bout at featherweight for the first time. With such a scientific set-up at McGuigan’s Gym, the benefit of having gone through making the weight once before will have allowed them to iron out any kinks for this fight. The fact that he was able to fight hard into the championship rounds will also be a reassurance to Frampton, who had struggled with the pace in the latter rounds towards the end of his time at super bantamweight.
The Belfast man revealed that he suffered with hand trouble in the lead-up to the first fight, and that his camp for the rematch has gone much better. The 29 year old also however alluded to long-standing neck issues, and is shown wearing kinesio tape on his neck during training in one of the many promo videos (WATCH HERE). However, it has been pointed out that a team as meticulous as Cyclone would surely not allow this footage be released if Frampton was suffering from severe neck issues, and that it may be a bluff or mind games on their part – perhaps to encourage head-hunting from Santa Cruz.
Leo Santa Cruz’s Father
The Mexican-American’s camp for the first fight was undoubtedly disrupted and distracted due to his father and trainer, José, being absent for a portion as he battled, and thankfully defeated, cancer. The actual tangible effect this had on his performance in New York, and the boost that Santa Cruz Snr’s return will give him for Las Vegas, remains to be seen. Frampton recently pointed out that Jose Santa Cruz was in camp for the final 5 weeks of camp as well as in the corner on fight night – so Santa Cruz’s claims that there were conflicting gameplans from his brother in camp and his father on the night seem shakey. Indeed Santa Cruz still managed to throw over a thousand punches first time round in what seemed to be a typical performance from ‘El Terremoto.’
Eric Donovan joins Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill on Episode 2 of the Irish Boxing Show: