Leo Santa Cruz includes Carl Frampton in 2019 plans but big doubts remain

Leo Santa Cruz’s career since defeating Carl Frampton in their rematch last January has been underwhelming to say the least.

Large gaps between fights and underwhelming opponents have seen the WBA featherweight champion’s star shrink somewhat but the Mexican-American is planning a big 2019 and one which includes ‘The Jackal’.

Santa Cruz was one of the world champions on display at the PBC on Fox press conference last night where his next fght was confirmed – a rather underwhelming defence of his title in LA versus Miguel Flores on Saturday February 16th 2019.

The 30-year-old, however, pledged that he would return to big fights and high-activity afterwards

Santa Cruz admitted that “2018 was a slow year, I only fought one time. 2019, I want it to be a big year with big fights.”

“I want to prove that I’m the best at the weight class.”

Since beating Frampton in their rematch in Las Vegas, Santa Cruz elected to take on Abner Mares in a rematch rather than fulfill his promise of rematching the Tiger’s Bay boxer in Belfast. However, ‘El Terremoto’s’ team insisted on a tune-up first and he would beat former Frampton foe Chris Avalos – whose return to title fights was based upon a cuts win over a certain Miguel Flores.

Mares was duly dispatched in a repeat this summer and, while a unification with WBC champion Gary Russell Jr on the Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury undercard next month was mooted, Santa Cruz will return in the new year in a fight which has been widely derided.

The three-weight world champion, though, has an ambitious plan mapped out.

Santa Cruz revealed that “I have it worked out, I want to get past Miguel Flores, then I want Carl Frampton, then I want Gary Russell.”

“After the Mares fight, I wanted to fight again before the year ended but it didn’t happen. [Haymon] told me 2019 would be a great year, it would be busy. I’m going to fight Flores. Then I want Frampton and Gary Russell. It doesn’t matter what order.”

“I want to prove I’m the best at the weight and those are the three fights I’m looking for.”

While it is encouraging to hear Frampton’s name mentioned, it should be noted that the 31-year-old has parted company with influential advisor Al Haymon – who still controls the careers of both Santa Cruz and Russell.

Indeed, Frampton, who is now promoted by Frank Warren, looks to be heading towards WBO champion Oscar Valdez – promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank, a close partner of Warren’s Queensberry.

The U.S. promotional divide could, arguably, be felt in Santa Cruz’s comments which focused mainly on stablemate Russell rather than rival Frampton or fellow Mexican Valdez.

The LA-based boxer claimed former Patrick Hyland foe Russell is the one he has to, and wants to, beat to become known as ‘the’ man .

“I want to prove that I’m the best featherweight. To do that, I have to beat Gary Russell,” Santa Cruz argued.

Belfast’s Frampton has his own fight to overcome next month, as he looks to regain world title status with victory over IBF titlist Josh Warrington and, if he emerges victorious, a unification clash with WBO champion Oscar Valdez seems the likely next step in the late Spring.

Should all go to plan this could tee up a WBA-IBF-WBO unification fight between Frampton and Santa Cruz but, right now, we are a long way away from that.


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