Carl Frampton (-137) vs Leo Santa Cruz (+130), Draw (+2000)
The first fight between Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KO) and then-WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KO) was arguably the fight of the year in 2016. Both fighters entered the ring undefeated, with Santa Cruz looking to make his second title defense and Frampton seeking his first featherweight title after moving up from super-bantamweight. The fight went the full 12 rounds with Frampton winning by majority decision, earning him the featherweight title.
Now, only six months later, a rematch is scheduled for Saturday, January 28, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Vegas. The first fight took place in Brooklyn, which brought the Irish out in full support of Frampton. The Irishman benefitted from as much of a hometown advantage as a foreigner could possibly receive.
The fighters come in with similar histories. Frampton vacated his IBF super-bantamweight title in order to move up to featherweight. He won the title in mid-2015 against Alejandro González Jr., whom he beat by unanimous decision. He survived a beating in the early rounds, recovering from two first round knockdowns, and ended strong to win the title.
He then went on to defend the title against then-WBA (super) super-bantamweight champion, Scott Quigg, a fight that took five years to negotiate. Unlike the González fight, Frampton dominated the earlier rounds but started to fade towards the end. Still, he managed to scrape by with a split-decision win.
Santa Cruz defeated fellow Mexican Abner Mares for the vacant WBA (super) featherweight title back in 2015, winning by majority decision. He then went on to successfully defend his title against Kiko Martínez, whom he hurt badly in the fifth round, prompting the referee to call an end to the fight. That was his last fight before his controversial loss to Frampton.
In the first fight, both fighters landed a similar number of punches, though Frampton connected on the more eye-grabbing shots and landed at a higher rate. A strong left hook in the third round left Santa Cruz staggering but Frampton was unable to capitalize on the damage done.
It was a high-paced 12 rounds, with both fighters committed to providing an exciting, action-packed event. By the end, the decision could have gone either way and the unofficial scorers and commentators were split down the middle as to who should have won.
Frampton clearly benefitted from the huge Irish population in New York. For the rematch, he pushed to have it held in his hometown of Belfast to once again gain an advantage with the crowd. But the rematch will be held in Vegas, where neither fighter will have a monopoly over the audience.
It’s possible that the crowd in New York gave Frampton an advantage over Santa Cruz, and possibly even swayed the judges’ decision. He won’t have that same advantage this time around and Santa Cruz will be on a level playing field. Given how even they looked, technically, in the first fight, Santa Cruz is better value at +130.
Pick: Leo Santa Cruz (+130)
Photo credit: Sinn Fein CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.
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