With the fight just hours away we have collected the picks of the Irish boxing media on how they see the WBA featherweight title scrap going – and we’re backing ‘The Jackal’ to pull it out of the bag.
Here are our Santa Cruz v Frampton predictions.
Kevin Byrne – The Irish Sun
Carl Frampton or Leo Santa Cruz, it’s like choosing between tea or coffee because both hit the spot on any given day.
Frampton’s first fight up at featherweight should see him take the edge in power and his defence is superb too. He’s going to be hit more than he’s ever been hit before so his chin and work-rate will be called into question.
If he can take Santa Cruz’s overwhelming pressure and use it to his advantage by conuntering efficiently with precision and power, then Frampton can boss this fight. It’s a big if though, and he may just find it irresistible to be drawn into a fire fight which may suit the bigger man.
I realise this piece may come across as ‘Irish Journalist Predictably Picks Frampton’ and not having seen Santa Cruz up close, while being present for Frampton’s big nights and feeling the whacks from press row, that’s natural.
God, this is a hard one to call. Frampton says if he hits any fighter on the chin, they’re going down – and I believe him. So I see him coming away from New York with another title and another piece of history made for Irish boxing.
David Mohan – Belfast Media Group (Andersonstown News/North Belfast News/South Belfast News)
It’s a massive challenge and something of a step into the unknown for Carl Frampton on Saturday, taking on the ‘Duracell Bunny’ that is Leo Santa Cruz while dipping his toes into the featherweight division for the first time, so making a call on this has been tough.
After a less than impressive start at 126lbs against Jose Cayetano, LSC toughed it out against Abner Mares before decking Kiko Martinez twice in the opening round of their meeting in February and then stopping him in the fifth suggesting he may have found his groove at the weight. We all know about about Leo’s incredible workrate and non-stop pressure, but his accuracy, as the punch stats show, proves he is more than just a gung-ho fighter.
However, much has been made of his height and reach advantages, but Scott Quigg held the same seven inch reach advantage over Frampton and is actually half an inch taller than Leo. It wasn’t a problem that night for Frampton and it doesn’t have to be again.
The Belfast man knows he must box a smart fight and has the ring IQ to do just that. I would expect him to use his superior footwork to move to the side, create the angles and look to counter hard.
Against Kiko – a man who has been in decline since Frampton took the IBF super bantamweight title off him and blown up to an unnatural 9st – Santa Cruz looked uncomfortable at times by the Spaniard’s power. One must imagine a Carl Frampton with the extra bulk could do the same and then some.
It will be hard for Frampton to get a decision in the States against a man with a fan-friendly and judge-friendly style who marches forward and throws non stop, but Santa Cruz is there to be hit. Frampton will get chances, the extra weight might just make the difference with his power shots and could help him score the knockdowns or even get the stoppage that will tip this one slightly in his favour.
Steve Wellings – Irish Boxing Review
I’m going for Frampton on points. Think he’ll catch Santa Cruz coming in as the bout goes on.
Paul Gibson – Freelance Boxing Writer (The Guardian/BBC/Boxing Monthly)
It’s a very tough fight for both men, by far the biggest challenge of their respective journeys to date. I’m backing Frampton but for the first time in his career I’d be wary of betting my mortgage on it.
With neither having lost nor faced this calibre of opposition before, there is so much we don’t know about each fighter. What we do know if LSC is a very tall, rangy 126 pounder with a Mexican heart who never stops punching. Those attributes alone are plenty to beat most of the division, but not the Jackal.
I think Frampton will be cute enough to avoid the pick of Leo’s punches in bunches and land sufficient big counter rights in response to hurt his man. Quality over quantity will prevail and I might even be tempted by a decent price on the Northern Irishman by late stoppage.
Leonard Gunning – The Irish Post
Frampton’s power, fleet footwork and timing should be the key to unpicking the ‘Terremoto’ lock as it was against Quigg. He faded in the championship rounds against Quigg, which could give some credence to his claims that he was struggling with making the 122lb limit and the Belfast fighter will need to have a full tank to thwart Santa Cruz’s persistent physicality and avoid suffering the same fate as Mares.
Frampton on Points
Gavan Casey – Balls.ie
Frampton is one of the most intuitive and adaptable in-ring fighters in the sport (see: fights with Gonzales, Avalos, Martinez x2). Even versus an opponent of Santa Cruz’s class, I trust the Tiger’s Bay man to judge after three rounds or so how often he’ll need to commit to phonebooth warfare to gain an edge.
I’ve always found Frampton’s power to be slightly overstated or, at least, to be a different type of power; thudding, pinpoint shots – annoying bloody shots – from unforeseen angles, which make opponents think twice about rushing in. ‘El Terremoto’ has one of the best high guards in the game, and so Carl will be required to feint his way inside and commit Santa Cruz before finding success – i.e. putting himself in harm’s way to inflict greater harm. If he can’t establish such a rhythm, he’ll be out-hustled and lose this fight.
I don’t foresee Santa Cruz’s height and reach being a major advantage against an opponent as accurate as Frampton; the ‘rangy’ Mexican negates it himself by lowering his head and upper body during exchanges – likely out of necessity rather than habit, such is his towering nature at 126lbs. It makes him eminently hittable when he trades – particularly considering his tendency to load up from behind his hips when he slugs, which leaves time and space for a boxer-puncher of Frampton’s ilk to capitalise with short counter-hooks.
Even allowing for this, Santa Cruz’s own accuracy, ferocity and activity suggest the 22-0 Irishman will be required to deploy his full arsenal: the corkscrew jab which worked wonders vs Avalos, the deceptively cloaked lead left hook, uppercuts on either side. He will frequently be forced to pull out a trick in order to fend off the oncoming freight train.
But you can prepare for pressure and volume, as Shane McGuigan and Frampton did to perfection for fights with a considerably fresher Kiko Martinez than the one felled by Santa Cruz in February. It’s far more difficult to prepare for pugilistic innovation.
Frampton takes Brooklyn and joins the pantheon of Irish sporting greats, via a tough but clear decision.
Jonny Stapleton – Irish-Boxing.com Joint Editor-in-Chief
For a hype-believer and someone more often than not buys the boxing lines he has been sold – I honestly got brain washed by the Sky Sports News feed and felt Audley Harrison was going to test David Haye – it has been easier to be a little more objective approaching this fight.
Spend Frampton fight week in Belfast with the fanatics listening to Barry McGuigan assure you ‘The Jackal’ is a cert to win, Shane McGuigan almost educate you on how it’s impossible for his charge to be defeated, and see up close the intensity and desire in Frampton’s eyes, and you will travel to the Odyssey Arena already looking forward to a post-fight celebratory drink.
This week/ being detached from the camp and its surrounds. it’s been easier to be logical about the fight – but still I find myself going for a Frampton win! It’s going to be tough, he will taste more leather than ever before, see more punches come his direction in one round than he did in his entire career to-date, but despite facing his toughest challenge to date I am leaning toward the Belfast man.
Santa Cruz is a come forward fighter of note, but still I have heard people more educated than me near slate his ability to close off a ring. If he really lacks the ability to fence in fighters he will find it hard to keep up his impressive punch stats. Frampton’s footwork and understanding of distance is his main asset. I think ‘extra power’ has been discussed so much in the build up that landing big isn’t actually part of the game plan early doors, and I think we might see Frampton see if it is possible to hit a move against such a volume puncher before standing his ground later.
If he can’t keep the champ at bay Frampton has proven he has a plan B and can try and take centre of the ring and back up a fighter whose has never been in reverse. I think then we may see that power we hear knocks out welterweights in the gym.
Before anyone runs to the bookies, I have been wrong more than I have been right previously, and the other journalists in this line-up have more often than not proved better judges. I know this is a 50/50 match up and hard to call, but I believe we may see something special from Frampton on Saturday. He isn’t taking this fight for money, he could have got more for a Scott Quigg rematch, it’s about legacy, it’s about breaking America and becoming a legendary fighter. I think with those things as motives we will see Frampton at his best and as a result he will claim a career best scalp.
The one worry I would have is if Frampton is landing the clean shots early on but Santa Cruz is throwing punches in bunches that are missing and hitting gloves the judges may see him as forcing the fight and he may bank rounds in that manner.
Joe O’Neill – Irish-Boxing.com Joint Editor-in-Chief
Perhaps it’s the power of Sky Sports News, but I am actually more confident of a Carl Frampton win tonight than I was against Scott Quigg. By no means am I saying that Quigg is superior to Santa Cruz, he’s not, but the multiple years it took to make the super bantamweight unification clash with the Bury boxer also served to give the inexperienced Quigg vital time to improve, whereas the opposite is somewhat true here.
Santa Cruz avoided a fight with Frampton back in 2013, when the Belfast man and his team were pushing for it, confident of victory. ‘The Jackal’ is a better and smarter fighter now, and with the move up to featherweight, he should recapture his old one-punch power that downed the likes of Kiko Martinez, Jeremy Parodi, and Hugo Cazares.
The Mexican-American has improved himself, and possesses underrated boxing skills, as he showed last year against Mares, but his footwork leaves a lot to be desired and Frampton has a huge advantage here. That said, between output and judges, I can’t see Frampton winning this on points in a battle of the jabs-style outside fight.
Power will be the determining factor here. Santa Cruz was troubled at times by Martinez and was lucky not to have a knockdown ruled against him. Lauded for his chin, if he can walk through the whispered ‘maximum banjo’ of Frampton’s short shots and modern strength and conditioning, then he will win on the cards or force an accumulation stoppage.
In terms of dimensions, this fight matches up with Frampton-Quigg, but I can’t see Santa Cruz fearing Frampton early on like the Englishman did. El Terremoto will pour forward as always and Frampton will need to hurt him, and while some think that this will deter the champion, I’d be of the opinion that he will have too much Mexican heart to retreat, and will go out on his shield in the mid rounds.
Kane Clarke – Irish-Boxing.com Feature Writer
For the first time in Carl’s professional career he enters a bout as the underdog, and who could really argue with the bookmakers? Leo Santa Cruz is one of the top fighters in the world right now, an undefeated three-weight champion.
But no matter what the statistics and the bookmakers say, I’ve always fancied Frampton for this fight. I used to think Santa Cruz could only fight one way, coming forward, vicious combinations body to head, but against Abner Mares, Santa Cruz showed he can box smart as well as using his reach effectively to his advantage. Fighting on the outside, he kept his smaller, tougher opponent at bay and, in doing so, showed that he can stick to a game-plan, something which could be crucial against Frampton. Had I not seen this side of Leo, I would be picking Frampton by knockout all day long as Carl has a lot more in his arsenal than the come-forward style of the Mexican.
This makes me think that the fight that we’re not going to see the all-out war everyone is expecting. I believe Santa Cruz will start fast and go at Carl, but I think after he feels Frampton’s power there could be a change of strategy and we could see him try to use his height and massive 7 inch reach advantage over the Belfast man.
I think the excitement in this fight will come from the inside exchanges when Carl manages to work his way inside the guard of Santa Cruz. For me Frampton has to get inside, land some big blows, and get out as quick as possible. Santa Cruz’s tight guard wont make that easy, and the fact that one of his favourite and most effective combinations is the hook to the body followed by the inside uppercut will make that task that little more dangerous and tougher.
I really have no idea what way this fight is going to play out. I’ve spent weeks going over it in my head and it can be fought so many different ways. For me Carl just edges Santa Cruz in most departments. I’m going Frampton to win on points after coming back from being a couple of rounds down early on.