The WBA featherweight champion made it two wins over Abner Mares with a close-but-clear 115-113, 116-112, and 117-111 unanimous decision rematch win over his fellow Mexican-American in the Staples Center on Saturday night.
Santa Cruz successfully defended his world title as he emerged victorious after 12 entertaining rounds and instantly set his sights on unifying at the weight.
The Los Angeles native and three-division world champion called out WBC title holder Gary Russell Jr following the victory.
“It feels great. Abner is a great fighter. He left his heart out there. It was a tough fight but thank God we got the victory. I had to be smarter, that’s why it was not a bigger war but it was a good one,” said Cruz before responding to being asked if he was the best at the weight in the world.
“Hopefully I am. I’ll leave it to the fans to decide. I want Gary Russell Jr. next. I want to unify. I’m ready for everyone, whoever and whenever.”
Frampton’s former foe’s words won’t be music to ‘The Jackal’s’ ears as he is keen on the rubber match.
Although, with a big Windsor Park date lined up for August 18th and a world title fight with Josh Warrington in the pipeline for later in the year, the 31-year-old Belfast fighter will have to wait for 2019 to fight the American based Mexican regardless.
Frampton could now claim the IBF title with victory over Warrington in their mooted December Manchester bout – assuming he comes through unheralded Aussie Luke Jackson unscathed on August 18th – and then look for the winner of any Santa Cruz-Russell title fight.
That said, as he holds the WBO interim belt there is also the prospect of the body’s champion Óscar Valdez looking for a Frampton fight once he returns from injury. The Mexican had earmarked Frampton as his desired comeback foe – although his team have said different and Valdez himself has recently changed tact and described Santa Cruz as his main target.
Following the rematch on Saturday night, the defeated Mares was full of praise for Santa Cruz but that didn’t stop Mares the former three-division world champion and a veteran of 10 world championship fights looking for yet another rematch.
“It was a ‘Fight of the Year’ like I told you,” said Mares. “I hope you like the fight because we fought for you, Los Angeles. Win or lose, we did it for the fans. It was a great fight.”