Carl Frampton is prepared to do whatever it takes to retain his WBA world featherweight title against Leo Santa Cruz in their rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on January 28.
The Ulsterman outpointed Santa Cruz in their hellacious meeting back in July to claim the WBA crown and the pair are set for an immediate rematch.
The decision was a close one but Frampton – a deserved winner first time round – plans to win more conclusively in Vegas.
“I believe he’ll come up with a different game plan but I genuinely believe that I’ll be able to deal with anything he brings to the ring. It’s not going to be an easy fight, but I’ll do whatever it takes to win and I believe I will,” he said.
“Leo Santa Cruz is a tough fighter with a solid chin. But I believe that if I hit any featherweight, or super featherweight, with a clean shot, that I can knock them out. If I’m a little bit cleaner, then I could knock him out. But I’ll be prepared to go a hard 12 rounds.
“I believe if I use my brain a little bit more in this one, and don’t get dragged into his fight, that I can win it more convincingly. But there will be times in this fight where I’ll just have to bite down and fight for my life.”
The former WBA and IBF super-bantamweight champion had an electric start to his first meeting with Santa Cruz, almost dropping the bookies’ favourite in the first few rounds.
However Santa Cruz rallied and made it tought for Carl down the stretch, leading to some brutal exchanges and close rounds – more than enough to warrant a rematch.
Santa Cruz’ camp for the first fight was an arduous one given that his father and trainer was battling with cancer. Though Leo was not looking for excuses, he acknowledged that his father’s illness certainly had an effect on his training and performance.
Despite Santa Cruz’s assurances that he will improve, Frampton remains confident he will better his own July performance.
“I feel like no matter who I fight, I always get better the second time,” he continued. “I have a good boxing brain and I can adapt to my opponent’s style and use it to my advantage. If you’ve seen me in sparring, if I have a dodgy performance, you know I will get better the second time.
“I know how Leo fights, and he knows how I fight. But I can adapt and make changes. I can be a bit more clever than I was last time. I got dragged into the fight more than I wanted to.
“I think this fight could be even better. I gave him his first loss and I’m sure he’s going to come looking for his revenge. But I’m training very hard. I’m in good shape for this point in camp.
“There’s no doubt that Leo went through a difficult time with his father’s illness. I also know that Leo trained very hard anyway. He threw about a thousand punches last fight and was throwing all the way to the end. You can’t throw much more than that so I don’t think he’s going to improve his work rate.”
Frampton became Northern Ireland’s first ever two-weight world champion when he dethroned Santa Cruz and the affable 29-year-old has developed a fervent fan base, one he feels is unrivalled by any other UK fighter’s.
He said: “Las Vegas is obviously a bit closer to home for Leo and I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of fans. But I’m bringing at least 4,000 from the UK. Right now I’m the most well-supported fighter in the UK. It’s a great privilege for me.”