Santa Cruz admits he was scared before coming to Belfast – but now he loves the city and the fans

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It took less than a day for Leo Santa Cruz [32(18)-1(0)-1] to fall in love with Belfast.

‘El Terremoto’ visited Ireland’s boxing capital today for the first leg of the press tour to promote the Frampton v Santa Cruz rematch, and was greeted warmly by the Belfast fight family.

The former three-weight world champion was clapped and cheered throughout the press conference at the Europa Hotel this afternoon, something which came as a bit of a shock to the Mexican-American.

The last time Santa Cruz had encountered ‘The Jackal Army’ was in the heat of battle during his first fight with the Belfast man in July in New York, a clash which drew plaudits for the loud travelling support – and even a suggestion from the former champ that they may have swayed the judges on the night.

It was all slightly more cordial today, and Santa Cruz admitted that he was expecting a hostile atmosphere from the Frampton fanatics as he ventured into their man’s home town, but the complete opposite was true.

So impressed was Santa Cruz with the Belfast fans, that he promised to return to the Titanic City for a rubber match should he defeat Frampton on January 28th in Las Vegas.

Santa Cruz told the assembled media that “I was a little bit nervous, scared of the people, of the fans, but all the people treat me with respect and I’m very thankful for that.”

“They didn’t disrespect me or anything and they gave me a great welcome so I was very happy and that’s why I said that hopefully if I get the win then I’ll be very happy to come here for the rematch in the trilogy.”

The fight early next year at the MGM Grand takes place quite close to Santa Cruz’s home city of Los Angeles, and the WBA featherweight title fight will be his seventh bout at the venue and his eighth Vegas fight in total.

Santa Cruz conceded that “maybe it could be an advantage because I’m comfortable fighting in Vegas. I’ve fought there a lot of times but this is going to be my first main event there. My first main event against another great champion. I’m just very happy and excited to go out there and do what we do best – a great fight for the fans.”

The press tour concludes on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie