Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton

Barclay's Center, Brookly, NY, July 30
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

It may sound cliched, but all things being equal, the good big man always defeats the good little man. Given that the slightly bigger Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) also has an edge over Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) in power, quality of opposition and punch resistance, the outcome of this fight seems like a no-brainer.

Nothing can be taken for granted in the sport of boxing, though, and there have been exceptions to the rule in the big-man-versus-small-man department.  Davids have defeated equally or more accomplished Goliaths in the past, although the cases have been few and far between.

Michael Spinks became the first light heavyweight to win the heavyweight crown when he out-smarted Larry Holmes. Shane Mosley climbed two weight divisions to eke out a razor thin decision against Oscar De La Hoya. Roberto Duran, a natural lightweight, out-machoed the larger-framed Sugar Ray Leonard at welterweight in their first encounter. And Leonard came off a lengthy layoff, rose in weight and to the occasion to befuddle, bedazzle and dethrone long-reigning middleweight king Marvin Hagler.

While Frampton is not an all-time great like Spinks, Mosley, Duran or Leaonard, what he has going for him is his defense and ability to box from the outside. Mind you, Santa Cruz is no slouch when it comes to shooting punches from long range but it is almost a secondary skill set. Encoded in his Mexican DNA is the natural penchant to brawl; his boxing skills are merely a means to the further end of closing the distance and slugging it out in the trenches.

Santa Cruz's supposed size advantage becomes less significant when taking into account that he began his pro career as at 115 and rose to 126 just last year. Frampton, on the other hand, has campaigned at 122 for his entire career.

Given Santa Cruz's superior size, strength and versatility, Frampton's only chance to pull off an victory is to devise and execute the perfect fight plan. To do that, he should steal a page from the playbook of Winky Wright, one of the most under-recognized defensive technicians in the sport who excelled in defeating stronger, feistier opponents. Wright's upsets over Mosley (twice) and Felix Trinidad stemmed from his tricky, doublecrossing ability to feign a willingness to engage in an exchange only to pull away and sharp shoot his way to an academic albeit unspectacular victory.

Ultimately, though, Santa Cruz's big-fight experience and underrated ring IQ will tip the balance in this showdown. Frampton is no Winky Wright. He might give Santa Cruz fits initially with his movement and elusiveness but the Mexican makes the right adjustments to take control at the midway point and stop the Irishman in the ninth round.

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