SHANE McGUIGAN is confident his charge Carl Frampton will defeat Leo Santa Cruz more convincingly in their WBA featherweight title rematch in Las Vegas this weekend.
Frampton took the title from Santa Cruz in one of the best fights in 2016 and will defend it against the Mexican-American at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.
Having spent the past three weeks training in Sin City, McGuigan remains convinced that unbeaten Frampton will once again shine in America, having beaten Leo in New York last year.
“Carl’s been performing great. He’s reached new heights, he’s really focused and ready to do a number on him. I think when you’ve boxed a fighter before, you know exactly how you’re going to box him again and it’s fresh in your mind for that training camp,” he told Boxing News.
“We’ve watched the fight loads of time since just to make sure we’re on the same wavelength about where he went wrong. I’m looking forward to getting it done.
“He’s been there, he’s been in big fights before. Last year he was in a massive unification fight, then stepped up and boxed a three weight world champion, won both away from home. So he’s done it.
“Now it’s just going through the mill again, but we’ve got to be focused because Santa Cruz has a new lease on life, he’s bringing that focus to camp because he’s never had a loss before. I didn’t think the first fight was that close, I thought Carl won it pretty convincingly but a few rounds were nip and tuck, close and Santa Cruz is probably thinking ‘five, 10 per cent more and I could have won that round’ and Carl’s thinking ‘if he’s going to come in with that now, what do we need to do to nullify it?’ It’s mainly about being clever because I know Santa Cruz, in this next fight, will try and outmuscle, outwork Frampton.”
However, in recent weeks Santa Cruz – best known for his marauding style and fervent workrate – has spoken about boxing Frampton differently this time around.
With height and reach advantages, Leo has claimed he can pick Frampton off and regain his title, but McGuigan remains unconvinced.
“He keeps contradicting himself by trying to keep up guessing. One minute he says he’ll use his reach, the next minute they say they’re going to put way more pressure on, attack the body,” he said.
“From the replay [of the first fight] you can see there’s a little bit of confusion in the corner, especially if you watched the Showtime footage. Santa Cruz wants to continue to put his foot down and his dad – probably because he’s never seen him wobbled before – was more cautious.”
McGuigan is of the belief that if Santa Cruz has more in his arsenal, he would have used it in the first fight. Santa Cruz maintains that the first fight perhaps should have been score a draw, or even in his favour.
Regardless, it was an absorbing 12 round fight that saw Santa Cruz come on strong down the stretch after being hurt in the early stage, though Frampton stood his ground and upset the odds. That made it a stark contrast to Frampton’s points win over domestic rival Scott Quigg earlier in the year, which failed to live up to the enormous hype it generated.
“Carl knows how to win, he knows when he’s in a close fight and when he needs to do just enough, which is annoying for me because sometimes I want him to just open up the lungs and go,” McGuigan explained.
“But he’s a guy who will think ‘I’m doing enough here’ and leave it up to the opponent to make it as exciting, or not, as possible.
“The Quigg fight, Quigg sort of froze a little bit and when Carl came back to the corner and asked if he was winning rounds I was saying ‘yeah, easy, but it’s not entertaining. Just let him be entertaining.’ That’s unfortunately why that fight was a little disappointing but with the Santa Cruz fight, Carl went in there saying ‘I want to stamp my authority and put on a great show.’ Now he’s done that, I feel Santa Cruz is going to come in and play into our hands. No matter what he says, he knows he can’t stand at distance and box Carl. So what’s he going to do? If he does, it’s the stupidest thing he could do. I have a feeling he’ll just put his hands up and start marching him down. If he does and if Carl stays clever, he can make it more convincing.”
Prevail, and the world is Frampton’s oyster. Wales’ Lee Selby defends his IBF featherweight title on the undercard in Vegas and should they both win, all signs point toward a unification fight later in the year.
“Obviously there’s this fight, we’re looking at Selby, that’s a good fight. I think he beats Selby, it’s a hard fight, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know how much he’s been tested at world level and Carl’s had those hard fights, those pressure fights. Once we get the job done on Saturday night we can sit and choose,” McGuigan mused.
“Abner Mares is out there, he’s a big name, and entertaining fighter. Going down the Oscar Valdez route, that could be a tough one because he’s with Top Rank and HBO.
“Lee’s on the undercard, it could build into a nice fight.”