Frampton and Santa Cruz traded wins, and the WBA title, previously with ‘The Jackal’ upsetting and dethroning the Mexican-American in New York in July 2016 before ‘El Terremoto’ reversed the outcome versus the Irishman in an immediate rematch in Las Vegas in January 2017.
Both fights were entertaining, high-quality contests that ended in majority decisions and a third fight was expected ever since the final bell in Vegas almost a year and a half ago.
Santa Cruz had promised beforehand that, regardless of the result, he would come to Belfast for a third fight in the Summer of 2017.
This, of course, did not happen with the L.A.-based fighter citing his father and trainer José’s vehement rejection of Belfast as an option as well as visa issues.
Instead, Santa Cruz [35(19)-1(0)-1] defeated former Frampton foe Chris Avalos before scoring a second victory over Abner Mares earlier this month.
The 29-year-old is now calling for a fight with infamously inactive WBC champ Gary Russell Jr but Frampton believes that he remains the more attractive option and that Santa Cruz should assert his desire for the rematch.
On the rematch, Frampton told FightHype that “it has to happen at some point. I think that I seem to be the only one talking about it between the two of us.”
“I think he needs to be a bit more vocal because it’s one each. It kind of has to happen, you can’t leave it at that.”
“I think it will be a bitter pill for me to swallow if the third one doesn’t happen but I think it will, I think it will come off at some point.”
“I’ve said and I’ve told him, that I’m willing to travel. This idea of bringing him to the U.K., it’s out of my head now, I don’t think it’s going to happen. So, I’m willing to travel to settle the score.”
While the fight remains Frampton’s biggest goal, the show must go on and the Frank Warren-promoted boxer won the WBO interim belt in April with a dominant display versus Nonito Donaire.
This secondary title goes on the line on August 18th at the Windsor Park football stadium in Belfast versus unheralded Aussie as Frampton looks to remain first in line for a shot at Oscar Valdez once the WBO champion recovers from a broken jaw suffered in his successful defence verssu Scott Quigg in March.
While Valdez is keen to face Frampton before the year is out, there is also the prospect of promotional stablemate and IBF champion Josh Warrington and Warren is dead-set on matching the two at the Manchester Arena in December.
Either would appeal to Frampton who notes how it could increase his bargaining power and appeal in terms of a Santa Cruz fight in 2019.
The 31-year-old outlined how “that’s the thing, after Jackson it’s potentially Warrington or Valdez.”
“If I go into 2019 with a world title and Leo is still a champion – which I expect him to be – then you’re talking about unifying and maybe that will force his hand a bit more, it’s a bigger fight then.”
“At the featherweight division, at this point, although I don’t have a world title, me against Leo Santa Cruz, to settle the trilogy, is the biggest fight in the division – it’s bigger than him unifying against another champion.”
“Me and Leo Santa Cruz is the biggest fight in the division.”
Watch Carl Frampton’s interview with FightHype in full below: