In a brilliant rematch that was every bit as tense and action-packed as the first encounter, Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) defeated Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) by a 12-round majority decision on Saturday night to win back the WBA world featherweight title he lost to the Northern Irishman in July 2016.
ESPN Boxing has the cards:
The pro-Santa Cruz crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas erupted into cheers upon the announcement of the scores. Frampton won the first bout by a similar majority-decision scoreline but couldn't avoid the first loss of his career in this second go-around.
Santa Cruz made the necessary adjustments to win this time around, making great use of his jab and a seven-inch reach advantage to both hurt Frampton and prevent him from controlling the pace of the bout.
Frampton's excellent counterpunching was apparent throughout, and the exciting pugilism on display will likely have fight fans everywhere hoping for a rubber match between these two.
Frampton himself wants another bout, per the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire:
Santa Cruz got off to a better start in this fight than in the first edition, using his length to keep the smaller Frampton at bay and landing some stinging jabs.
A volume puncher by trade, Santa Cruz showed a level of restraint early on, per NYFights.com's Michael Woods:
When the action went to the ropes, limiting Santa Cruz's reach advantage, Frampton was able to get in some precise counterpunches to the head and body, particularly with the left hook.
The third and fourth rounds featured a few vicious, crowd-pleasing exchanges between the two fighters, as Frampton took the fight inside and forced Santa Cruz to trade punches. Here's a look at the fourth-round action, via Showtime Boxing:
Frampton's head movement throughout much of the bout was excellent, but he dropped his gloves at the end of the fifth and absorbed several hard shots to the jaw. However, the Belfast fighter didn't look any worse for wear, and the action continued at a frenetic pace.
Boxing journalist Andreas Hale distilled the fight down to the key weapons for each boxer:
While the offense in the bout was in ample supply, Frampton did entertain the crowd with some sublime movement that had Santa Cruz punching air at the end of the seventh.
Frampton fought with greater urgency in the later rounds, though Santa Cruz still kept up his usual taxing work rate. Santa Cruz's jab kept Frampton out of the easy rhythm he slid into on the first fight, and his counterpunches were cleaner as well.
There was still little between these two all the way to the final bell, as an aggressive Frampton pushed Santa Cruz to the ropes on multiple occasions and pounded away with his furious flurries.
The pace hardly subsided despite fatigue becoming a factor, and Santa Cruz was able to land well enough in the final rounds to keep Frampton from swinging the bout at the end.
Showtime Boxing provided some late-round highlights:
Make no mistake, a third fight between these two should be on every boxing fan's wish list. Both are aggressive fighters who provide plenty of action and are still under 30 years old. The Mexican Santa Cruz and the Belfast native Frampton provide global appeal. The two showed plenty of mutual admiration during the bout, tapping gloves between several rounds and quickly embracing as soon as the final bell sounded.
If Santa Cruz and Frampton can get a third fight done, it will likely be another entertaining slugfest and a victory for the sport and its fans.