Carl Frampton defeats Leo Santa Cruz on legendary night
Carl Frampton is the new WBA featherweight champion of the World following a fantastic majority decision win over the previously-unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz at the Barclays Centre in New York.
The Jackal gave one of the greatest performances in Irish boxing history in the Big Apple to win a World title in a second weight division with a brilliant display of boxing skill and plenty of grit to win back the belt his mentor Barry McGuigan had won 31 years ago.
A tentative opening round saw Frampton shade the stanza with a big left that elicited a grin from the champion.
A fight broke out in the second and the Belfast man seemed to surprise Santa Cruz by being the physically stronger man and almost put the Mexican-American on his backside with a clipping left hook that sent him staggering into the ropes.
El Terremoto was more reluctant to come forward in the third, another Frampton round, with the Tigers Bay puncher landing a hurtful left hook and right uppercut.
The fourth saw Santa Cruz roar back into contention with a straight right that momentarily buzzed Frampton but he fought back well towards the end of the round.
A quiet fifth round saw Frampton on top with the cleaner more varied work in a big last minute.
The sixth stanza saw the beginning of a momentum shift with the California-based boxer getting on top in the exchanges, before catching a seemingly tired Frampton with long shots in the seventh.
Frampton stemmed the flow in the eighth, another close round, which he perhaps shaded with a beautiful right hook-left hook combo on the two minute mark.
A razor-tight tenth saw the better quality from Frampton, but an eye-catchingly strong finish from Santa Cruz.
The tenth was a comfortable round for the champion, but he failed to land much of note against Frampton who winked to his corner at the bell, suggesting that it may have been a rest round.
Santa Cruz came on strong in the eleventh and rocked Frampton’s head back with both a right hook and a right straight, however in the twelfth ‘The Jackal’ showed what he was made of. Hurt early, Frampton fought back and had the better of the exchanges down the final stretch.
With the fate of the fighters in the hands of the judges, they plumped for Frampton with scores of 116-11 and 117-111 – which overuled a 114-114 draw.
Afterwards Frampton [23(14)-0] described it as “a dream come true.”
“Hopefully I don’t have to buy a pint for the next twenty years.”
Santa Cruz [32(18)-1(0)-1], who refused to question the decision until he rewatches the fight, stated that “now I want the rematch in Los Angeles, I would go to Belfast too.”