LAS VEGAS — Leo Santa Cruz knew he couldn’t beat Carl Frampton by brawling, so he did what all great fighters do by adjusting his game plan. The pressure fighter morphed to a boxer-puncher to take a majority decision and regain the WBA featherweight title.
From round one, the feel of the fight had a pronounced difference from their first encounter last July. The taller Santa Cruz worked behind his jab and forced Frampton to become the aggressor and takes risks to get inside. When Frampton succeeded, the challenger took a step back and scored with short flurries inside, forcing Frampton back outside to reset.
This pattern continued until the sixth round when Frampton began to wear down Santa Cruz with hard body shots and mauling. The punishment and pace slowed Santa Cruz’s jab, giving Frampton more opportunities to close the scoring gap in the seventh and eighth stanzas.
In the ninth, Santa Cruz’s jab and high activity returned. Frampton couldn’t equal the challenger’s punch output, and found himself being out-landed 3-1 in exchanges.
Despite the masterful game plan, Frampton’s success in the mid rounds and desperation push in the 12th made for close scorecards. Judge Burt Clements had it a draw, 114-114. He was overruled by Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman, who both had it 115-113 for Santa Cruz.
The most impressive moment came afterward from Santa Cruz, who stated in his post-fight interview that he wants another fight to make a trilogy. You heard that right. No mention of needing to talk with his manager or promoter. Santa Cruz lauded Frampton for giving him a rematch, and feel he’s obligated to return the favor.
I’m sure not a single boxing fan will have an objection.
.@RealCFrampton humble and gracious in defeat. Asks Leo to run it back a third time in Belfast. #FramptonSantaCruz2 #Boxing pic.twitter.com/llC7BJhar0
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) January 29, 2017