BELFAST’S undefeated two-weight world champion Carl Frampton will once again fight California’s former three-weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz, in the first defence of his WBA Super world featherweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena at MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday January 28 2017.
The famous duo met Tuesday at the Europa Hotel in Belfast for the first time since their epic world featherweight title fight at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NYC in July of this year. That ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate captivated the boxing world and since the final bell rang to conclude Frampton vs Santa Cruz, boxing fans and aficionados alike have been calling for the rematch, such was the entertainment of that all-action WBA Super world featherweight title bout on July 30 in New York, USA.
The press conference was energetic. Santa Cruz was predictably booed upon entering the noisy Europa Hotel in contrast to Frampton who received a hero’s welcome that is becoming the norm for the 5ft 5inch puncher.
Frampton said, “It’s great to have Leo Santa Cruz here and for the people of Belfast to see a three weight world champion in the flesh.”
Today marked the start of the press tour for Frampton vs Santa Cruz II and Frampton’s legion of fans turned out in great numbers to show their support for their incredibly popular champion. On Thursday (December 1) the tour moves on to downtown Los Angeles, where Santa Cruz’s fans will have their chance to show their support ahead of the highly anticipated rematch on January 28 in Las Vegas, USA.
Santa Cruz enjoyed his Belfast experience: “I’m very happy to be here and excited. The first fight was a great fight and this second fight is going to be even better.
“I got my first defeat to a great fighter and I want to win the rematch, hopefully I win and I would like to have the third fight in Belfast. Hopefully the night will go my way and we can come to Belfast for the third fight.”
Frampton’s manager, Boxing Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan was typically enthused by the local support: “What a turnout. We knew they would come out and show their support for Carl and it is also a great opportunity for true boxing people in Belfast to see a Mexican great in Leo Santa Cruz. A great day and super promotion for what is going to be a terrific fight once again.”
Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer said,”Whenever I come here I can feel the passion that you fans bring to the sport & I really appreciate that. I don’t think that there are any better fans than you guys.”
The tactics were not going to be given away by Frampton’s trainer Shane McGuigan but he clearly had his views on the outcome of the fight, saying, “This second fight, we’re going to beat him rather convincingly, cement the win and move on.”
Frampton’s all-action style has made him a firm favourite with boxing fans all around the world. The record breaking Northern Irishman is currently one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet and on January 28 will, for the first time, take his legion of fans to the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas. The 29-year-old Frampton defeated Santa Cruz in July 2016 after conquering rival Scott Quigg in their 122-pound world unification bout in February of the same year. His spectacular victory over Santa Cruz at the Barclays Center in New York is considered to be one of the greatest overseas wins for a British boxer in history. Fighting out of Belfast, the Irish national amateur champion won his first world title in September 2014 before making two defenses in 2015 against Chris Avalos in Belfast Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. in Texas before unifying the title against Quigg.
“The rematch is the fight we wanted,” said Frampton. “I enjoyed our first fight in New York. The atmosphere was fantastic and the fight lived up to the hype. I believe if I use my brain a little bit more in this one, I can win it more convincingly but there will be times in the fight where we will just have to bite down in the gumshield and fight like you know what and that’s what I’m prepared to do. Then we will be coming back and having a show in Belfast in the summer.”
The huge Frampton vs Santa Cruz world featherweight title showdown at the MGM Garden Arena, Las Vegas on Saturday January 28th will be televised by Showtime in the USA. It will be the third straight occasion that Frampton, 23 – 0 (14 KO’s), has appeared on the Showtime network.
The popular Mexican-American Santa Cruz fights out of Los Angeles and won a 126-pound title in a “Fight of the Year” grudge match against former three-division champ Abner Mares in August 2015 at STAPLES Center. He followed that up by stopping former world champion Kiko Martinez before taking the Frampton challenge. Prior to that, Santa Cruz won belts at 118 and 122 pounds while earning a reputation as one of boxing’s most active and exciting fighters. The 28-year-old also holds victories over Cristian Mijares and Eric Morel and has competed in world title bouts in 12 of his last 14 fights since 2012.
Santa Cruz, 31 – 1 – 1 (17 KO’s), is considered to be one of the greatest Mexican-American boxers of all time and is determined to avenge his July loss and regain the WBA Super world featherweight crown. Twenty-eight year old Santa Cruz has chosen not to box in a warm up bout following the first loss of his career and will instead jump straight in against the only man to have ever defeated him.
“From the moment our last fight ended, when the decision came and I lost the fight, I knew my only goal was to get my belt back,” said Santa Cruz. “When I sat in the locker room afterward, I felt more motivated than ever to get back in the gym. All I’ve thought about since the fight was this rematch. There won’t be any distractions in this camp. I’ll be heading into the fight with a better game plan. I’m putting in 100 percent in training and I’m excited to get in the ring on January 28 to get my belt back.”