Opinion is split among the boxing public and pundits, and any outcome is a real possibility. With no overwhelming favourite for the bout, no vastly superior fighter, the clash could be decided by any number of little things, the inches that make up the yard.
The Ring: The size of the squared circle tonight is currently unconfirmed, however it would be commonly accepted that the bigger the ring the better for Frampton who will need to use every millimeter of canvas to secure some respite from ‘El Terremoto’s’ relentless attacking style.
The Canvas: For a boxer whose game is based on footwork, a hard canvas will be vital for ‘The Jackal.’ An energy-sapping quicksand-like canvas such as the one he was confronted with in El Paso last year for his fight with Alejandro Gonzalez but be a huge disadvantage. Again, the thickness of the canvas is unconfirmed but Frampton has alluded that it was a factor in the negotiations and that it wont be am issue in the Barclays Centre, saying that “the canvas was very soft [v Gonzalez], like a mattress, but I’ve learned from those mistakes and I won’t let that happen again.”
Frampton’s Acclimatisation: The Belfast man flew to New York a month in advance to adjust to the time difference and climate for the bout, as well as building up an American following. Extensive preparations the likes of which are almost unparalleled, this should ensure that Frampton is at 100% for he fight.
Leo’s Late Arrival: The Mexican-American only flew cross country on Monday, which could have been potentially disruptive during his fight week preparations.
Santa Cruz’s Father: Jose Santa Cruz, trainer and father to Leo, was diagnosed with Stage 3 myeloma in April and undergone chemotherapy treatment and spinal surgery to battle the cancer. Thankfully now he is on the mend and will be in his son’s corner tonight. An issue which we have previously purposely not written about out of respect, however it will undoubtedly have an effect on the fight. Whether this is a positive or negative effect remains to be seen. The ordeal could serve to motivate and inspire Santa Cruz, or it could have been an understandable distraction during a camp where he was trained by his brother Antonio. Indeed it could be both, training will not have been perfect without his regular trainer, but Santa Cruz proved in 2012 that he can win impressively despite personal turmoil, winning well while his brother Roberto was seriously ill with lupus (thankfully he would make a miraculous recovery).
The Judges: With Santa Cruz being the defending champion and ‘A-side’ of this fight, it is not inconceivable to see him being given the nod in closer rounds. Add to this his high-activity style, this could sway the scorers, Frank Lombardi, Guido Cavalleri, and Tom Schreck, in action-loving America.
The Weight: Frampton has been commended for jumping straight into a title fight at featherweight. However, with no featherweight experience, Shane McGuigan and his team are walking a tightrope here over uncharted waters, and everything will need to be perfect. Frampton will not be subject to an +10lbs IBF-style checkweight as he was at super bantam, meaning that he was free yesterday today rehydrate without worrying about a second weigh-in. The higher weight should benefit Frampton in terms of punch power, punch resistance, and stamina, but he will have had to have been careful following the weigh in, and today, not to overeat – which could lead to him being sluggish in the ring. Loading up too much before a fight proved to be an issue for Jamie Conlan last year ahead of his epic fight with Junior Granados.
The Crowd: Frampton thrives off a loud support, and has previously said that it adds an extra ten percent to his performance in the ring. While it won’t be an Odyssey-style crowd tonight, there will be a large and loud Frampton following in the Barclays Centre with 1,200 travelling across the Atlantic alongside the new fans he has made in New York. The Jackal Army will need to be in full voice tonight to give their man an extra oomph. Additionally, the pro-Frampton crowd will be a new experience for Santa Cruz who has never fought on the East Coast, and has never been less-supported man in the ring. How he deals with this will be interesting, it could fire him up or he could wilt under a chorus of ‘Everywhere We Go.’