It wasn’t the first name to pass through the lips of Leo Santa Cruz after he successfully defended his WBA featherweight world title against Rafael Rivera in LA on Saturday night but Irish fight fans will be happy to hear the Mexican mention Carl Frampton on his big fight short list.
The Al Haymon fighter, as expected, came through his first test of 2019 over the weekend, winning by unanimous decision although being given a far tougher test than most predicted.
Santa Cruz [35(19)-1(0)-1] wants to be busy in 2019, something he hasn’t been for years, is now eyeing a massive bout when he returns in June or July.
Unification seems to be the priority and the three-weight world champ is eager for clashes with IBF belt holder Josh Warrington, WBC king Gary Russell Jr, and WBO champ Oscar Valdez.
However, it does point out a rubber match with ‘The Jackal’ fits into that ‘big fight’ category – which is something of a change from his talk in the aftermath of Frampton’s loss to Warrington.
“I want to fight the best,” said Santa Cruz after the win at the Microsoft Theater in LA.
“I want to fight any of the champions at featherweight or have a third fight with Carl Frampton. I want to be back this summer and fight three times this year against the best in the division.”
Santa Cruz vs. Rivera FULL HIGHLIGHT…. you're welcome 😳. pic.twitter.com/rP6O0oT5dF
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) February 17, 2019
With Warrington making a mandatory defence against Kid Galahad a summer showdown with the Leeds native seems unlikely.
The Russell Jr fight seems the big one, but may be one the Mexican’s team view as his last fight before moving up another division – while Valdez has been looking the way of Warrington and Frampton and his links to Top Rank may hamper a fight with a PBC champion.
In that regard, a third Frampton installment certainly doesn’t look unlikely and the summer timeframe would also suit the former two-weight world champion.
Frampton [26(15)-2(0)] has stated if he does return it will be in the summer and has revealed he has held advanced preliminary talks with the teams of both Valdez and Santa Cruz.
The Ulsterman notes how he is in now position to be making demands but admits that he has a slight preference for Santa Cruz.
Frampton traded wins with ‘El Terremoto’ in America, defeating him in New York in July 2018 before losing in Las Vegas in January 2017.
Before the rematch, Santa Cruz would promise a third fight in Ireland but would go back on his word, citing his father – who feared a robbery in Belfast and also has a precarious visa situation and does not want to risk leaving America.
Frampton would call for the bout constantly over the past two years, and is resigned to travelling, and again stated his desire yesterday.
— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) February 17, 2019