Carl Frampton, just having tucked the BWAA Fighter of the year award into his pocket, took on Leo Santa Cruz, with the WBA featherweight crown he snagged from LSC he snagged last year up for grabs. Would he be even better, that much more confident at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas?
Not so; Santa Cruz was an ace ring general Saturday night, ever so smart on offense, working smarter not harder, and on defense. His head movement, slipping, blocking and moving all made it hard for Frampton. The judges spoke loud and left Leo proud, by scores of 114-114, and then 115-113, 115-113.
It was a majority decision, and I saw it even wider for Leo, who impressed the hell out of me. Naw, no draw there. Frampton even said so in the ring after the clash. The better man won tonight, he admitted. Leo after apologized for not giving his fans more of a rumble, but said he fought the way he needed to in order to get the W. Both feels seemed to be open to a third scrap.
In the number department, Leo won. He went 230-884 to 133-582 for the Irishman.
In the first of a fight which ran on Showtime, LSC came out smart and less aggressive. Then he went back to being himself. His double jab kept Frampton at bay a bit better than in some parts of their first fight. Both landed clean and hard in the last 30 seconds.
In the second, LSC was so busy with the jab, keeping the Irishman at bay, again. He backed off and seemed to be re assessing his gamelan.
In the third, Leo jabbed, and was overall throwing less than we’d seen. He was doing more with less. Frampton picked up his jab. And he moved more, to his left, and that helped the Irishman. He got caught coming in late but then gave one after he got one.
In the fourth, Carl was missing with hooks. Leo was smart with movement and distance. He’d back up, then wait…then dart forward. He’d rumble then remember he wanted not to rumble, and get out. To 5; Frampton didn’t quite know whether he wanted to be the inside or outside man. His trainer wanted him to get a better angle with his left hook, he said after.
In the sixth, the faster hands were shown by LSC. Left hooks to the body, once, twice, more from Leo.
In round seven, Frampton caught Leo with a right. Was he more energized? It was a mellow round, both men didn’t go crazy.
To 8; they started trading. Frampton was being a bully. Leo’s defense was on point tonight. He was focused and didn’t drift mentally. Another tight round, pretty much all had been. After, Shane McGuigan said his guy looked for hard shots too much inside. “We’re a round down,” he told the kid.
To 9; Leo’s left hooks were on message during trading. He moved Frampton back, landed a sharp clean right at 30 seconds. LSC was a better ring general to this point.
To 10; we saw Leon punch straight and smart. They traded and Frampton did better, because Leo wasn’t so into defense. Maybe Frampton won the round with a left hook to the body late. To 11; Frampton pressed like he was down. No matter, LSC was so accurate. And his D–Frampton was alligator armed against the winner.
To 12; Frampton looked like he knew he needed a bomb to land. Leo didn't run out the clock. His lefts to the body strafed wickedly. To the card we went..