MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV, Jan. 28
By Peter Lim
Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) entered the ring a slight underdog when he faced Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) last year. Frampton pulled off a minor upset by controlling the distance and tempo of the fight to befuddle Santa Cruz and edge him by a majority decision.
Having won their first encounter, Frampton should be a slight favorite in the rematch. But it will be Santa Cruz's turn to adjust his fight strategy and turn the tables on Frampton this time around.
Santa Cruz underestimated Frampton's boxing ability and gamesmanship in their first encounter and tried to steamroll and out-brawl the Irishman as he did successfully against 32 previous opponents. He won't make the same mistake in the rematch.
Santa Cruz will tone down his signature blitzkrieg attacks in lieu of a more calculated but less macho approach. Utilizing his longer reach, he beats Frampton to the jab from the outside. He nullifies Frampton's in-and-out forays by covering and countering with accurate shots instead of returning fire with reckless abandon like he did in the first fight.
Santa Cruz's measured game plan might make him a less exciting fighter but, against the wily Frampton, it gets the job done. Santa Cruz wins a close but clear-cut decision on the scorecards, laying the groundwork for an intriguing tie breaker.