Despite narrowly missing out on a victory in his enthralling rematch with Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday night, a hard-fought display filled with an abundance of courage and skill meant Carl Frampton retained his status as Britain’s best pound for pound fighter.
10’085 fight fans were in attendance to witness the eagerly anticipated bout at The MGM Garden, many of these were impassioned Irish and Mexican fans whose eagerness to visibly and audibly show their support for their fighter only added to what can only be described as an a awe-inspiring occasion.
Only for brief moments did Saturday’s rematch descend into the barnburner that the first fight was, instead this contest was a technical battle in which both fighters did everything in their power to set the pace and get the edge on their opponent.
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It was the discipline of Santa Cruz that was the difference in this contest, the former three weight world champion showed a great deal of self restraint in not allowing himself to be engaged in a brawl with Frampton. The Mexican opted to make full use of his strong jab, even if that meant giving up the centre of the ring for much of the fight.
The fight was by no means one sided though, as the Belfast fighter pushed Santa Cruz to his limit and deserves endless recognition for his performance. It was obvious that the drastic change of style from Santa Cruz had caught Frampton by surprise, leaving him flustered in the opening rounds. However, Frampton showed his class and clawed his way back into the contest, smothering Santa Cruz with forceful inside shots and heavy pressure that saw him gain the upper hand in many of the middle rounds.
Frampton admitted after the fight that despite Santa Cruz telling him all week his game plan was to jab and move, the Irishman never actually believed he would. Inevitably as the frantic pace of Frampton waned, Santa Cruz reverted back to his plan and edged ahead on the scorecards.
After a string of frustrating rounds for Frampton, the final round he once again showcased why he is so revered by British fight fans. Seemingly, in his own mind Carl had conceded he was too far behind to win on the scorecards, bravely he conjured up every last bit of energy and strength he had and marched forward looking for an unlikely stoppage victory, forcing Santa Cruz to retreat for the final session. Nonetheless, Frampton’s dogged efforts were unsuccessful and he fell to a majority decision defeat at the end of 12 captivating rounds of boxing.
Notwithstanding the inescapable feeling of bitter disappointment that Frampton felt at suffering his first defeat, the Irishman accepted his loss with an inconceivable amount of gracefulness, even so much as clapping his gloves together when Santa Cruz’s victory was confirmed by the unmistakeable Jimmy Lennon Jr.
The animosity between Frampton and Santa Cruz is non existent, yet a third fight between the pair is mouthwatering. They are two highly skilled fighters whose styles blend together to bring out the best in each other and put on a phenomenal show for boxing fans.
In the aftermath of the contest a visibly downtrodden Frampton thanked hundreds of his travelling fans by getting a round in at the bar. However, Frampton will really be looking to show his gratitude to his ardent following later in the year, when for the first time since February 2015 he laces up the gloves to box in Belfast.
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The very realistic possibility of Santa Cruz venturing to Belfast to complete the trilogy with Frampton is tantalising. However, there are alternative options for the former champion in his next outing, not least a huge domestic showdown with IBF Champion Lee Selby, the Welshman was being touted as Frampton’s next opponent prior to Saturday night. Given that a bizarre turn of events restricted Selby from defending his title Saturday, it is likely that he is going to want to box at least once, before he steps into the ring against Frampton. Nonetheless, a fight between two of Britain’s finest fighters is undoubtedly going to exhilarate fight fans up and down the country.
Whilst Frampton’s next opponent remains uncertain, one thing can be guaranteed, whoever faces the unenviable task of going to war with The Jackal next, will be facing a hungrier, stronger, far more dangerous fighter. Frampton’s quest to solidify his legacy as one of the UK’s best ever boxers is far from over.