WHILE team Frampton arrived in New York, weeks before his fight with Leo Santa Cruz, the WBA featherweight champion chose to come in at the last possible moment electing to train in Los Angeles. On Tuesday there was finally a Santa Cruz sighting in New York with many more to come before the week is out.
What Santa Cruz contributed or did not to the promotion will become irrelevant Saturday evening when he and Frampton answer the opening bell at The Barclays Center. But for this week there can be no hiding from his obligatory duty of meeting the press to boost interest in an outstanding show that has been somewhat lacking in interest to this point.
The day might come when Santa Cruz is so well known that he is stopped on the streets of Manhattan, but for now he would blend in with workers pushing carts on the street and delivery boys riding to their destination on bicycle to avoid the insanity of daytime traffic in New York City. Santa Cruz has a boyish, innocent look. His face is one of politeness.
Santa Cruz is a Mexican-American who speaks fluent English, but seems to prefer talking in Spanish. He had never been to New York before. His introductory public appearance to hype the fight was held in the Consulate General offices of Mexico in Manhattan. It was less a press conference than a love fest. We sat and heard speeches of what an inspiration Santa Cruz is and how Mexican Americans are contributing to society in the United States. Needless to say that if there were any Donald Trump supporters in the room they had the sense not to make themselves known.
Years ago we were told that father–son teams don’t work, until we saw many cases where they actually did quite well. For the Santa Cruz’s it has been the latter. The fighter praised his father Jose who has trained him throughout his career and revealed that the fight with Frampton nearly was postponed. “My dad was diagnosed with cancer,” said the champion, “I did not know if he would be here. I would not have come to New York if he couldn’t make it. I would not be in boxing if it wasn’t for him.” Jose, who speaks no English, looked on with the pride. As much as he has accomplished training his son to be a champion inside the ring, the job he has done as a father has been even greater.
Santa Cruz and Frampton would meet later in the day for the first time when they participated in a photo shoot on top of the Empire State Building. What evolves inside the ring remains to be seen, but outside of it both are respectful of the other not wanting to be the first to fire the opening salvo in the war of words. Santa Cruz though is raring to go, making it clear he can’t wait for the fight. “I will do my best to make it a war” he said.
When asked his reaction to Frampton arriving in New York long before him, Santa Cruz said that was a good thing. “I want no excuses from him because I will not make any” Santa Cruz continued. “I am glad he came in early and will be well prepared.”
Santa Cruz is relying on his own talents to prevail, admitting he did not even see Frampton’s match with Scott Quigg in its entirety. “I only saw clips of it and was surprised they fought so carefully. I was expecting a war.”
Santa Cruz signed autographs, took photos, and gave interviews. The smile on his face never wavered. Only a few more days to go until Santa Cruz gets to do what he does best. Nothing makes him happier.