Santa Cruz defeats Frampton on points in rematch
Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) won his rematch with previously undefeated Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) by a 12 round majority decision to regain the WBA featherweight title on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
In the first fight, Frampton, who held the IBF and WBA super bantamweight belts before moving up in weight, claimed a majority decision and the 126-pound world title from Santa Cruz in a action-packed bout last July.
This time, Santa Cruz, a three-weight world champion, used more boxing skills and less brawling to win by scores of 115-113 twice, while the third scored it 114-114.
Both fighters exchanged punches in the first round but Santa Cruz started to get the better of Frampton, using his longer jab more effectively than he did in their first meeting.
There were some good two-way action in the fourth and the two got tangled up at the end of the round as Frampton went down, which referee Kenny Bayless correctly ruled no knockdown.
Frampton had his moments but Santa Cruz was outworking him in most of the rounds.
The Northern Irishman began to back up Santa Cruz in rounds 7 and 8 and land several hard shots to the head, but the Mexican came back well in the 9th, unloading some big blows with both hands.
They battled toe to toe in the closing rounds and with just three minutes remaining, Frampton piled on the punches in the 12th, seeking the KO punch, but Santa Cruz fought back until the final bell.
Now Santa Cruz and Frampton look set for a rubber match.
"We got the belt back," said Santa Cruz.
"Carl Frampton is a great fighter and a great counter-puncher.
"It was tough to change my style. In my head I wanted to go forward and pressure him, but I was told to box him and that's what I did.
"Let's make it a third fight!"
Frampton said: "It was a very tough fight. Some of the rounds were close but I feel like Léo probably deserved it.
"Sometimes I felt the brawler was outboxing the boxer. It’s one-all, we have to do it again."
Also on the card, Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs) knocked out previously undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin (22-1, 15 KOs) to win the WBC lightweight title.
American Garcia controlled the fight from the start as he jabbed and countered while Zlaticanin stalked.
Garcia continued to dominate the action with his jab in the second and also connected with hard rights.
Then in the third, he brutally ended it with a huge uppercut followed by a right hand that knocked the Montenegrin southpaw out cold.
"I'm very happy he's OK and I'm glad he was able to recover from that," said Garcia.
"I’m very happy with the performance. We were controlling the pace and distance right away from the first round. I saw some openings and I thought I could hurt him later down the road, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that soon in the fight.
"He’s a tough guy, he was able to take some good punches. But when I finally did hurt him, I went for that right hand. I knew it was a good shot."
With the win, Garcia, in his second fight since a 2½-year layoff due to issues over his contract with his former promoter Top Rank, becomes a three-weight world champion, having previously won world titles at featherweight and super featherweight.