Featherweight Carl Frampton, of Northern Ireland, made a huge splash last night, overtaking WBA titlist Leo Santa Cruz with a unanimous decision in an action packed fight of the year candidate to headline Showtime's card at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Frampton (23-0-0, 14 KO), who moved up from Super Bantamweight to challenge Santa Cruz, started off the night blazing and never looked back, consistently applying pressure to the champion and landing the noticeably heavier shots throughout the bout.
After a relatively uneventful first round, Frampton ignited the pro-Irish crowd in the second frame with a massive left hook that buckled Santa Cruz's knees and sent him back pedaling into the ropes. The challenger swiftly moved in for the finish, however Santa Cruz valiantly fended him off to hear the bell at the end of the round.
After convincingly taking the third stanza, Frampton's night became much tougher, as Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KO) started to rally by finding a home for his jab and gained a rhythm throughout the remainder of the fight. The action never slowed in the 9 remaining rounds, which featured each man standing toe to toe and landing menacing blows.
The new title holder's output tapered off throughout the scuffle, allowing Santa Cruz to win a number of rounds with his increased activity, the disparity blatantly displayed in the 1002 punches thrown by the former WBA champion compared to only 668 thrown by Frampton overall. However the Irishman was able to win many rounds in the eyes of the judges and fans due to him landing the cleaner shots more frequently, connecting on 242 shots to Santa Cruz's 255.
Frampton will be returning home with the WBA Featherweight crown on convincing scores of 117-111, 116-112, as well as a 114-114 Draw. While the cards differed substantially, it was simply due to a plethora of close rounds and actually not from questionable judging, which is a breath of fresh air for a sport marred with horrendous scoring. Santa Cruz will surely remain a giant factor in the division, while an immediate rematch certainly must be in the equation due to the exciting nature of this bout. The new titleholder, becoming the first boxer from Northern Ireland to win titles in two divisions, now has that signature victory under his belt that will allow him to land a major payday.
In the co-feature, American standout Mikey Garcia (35-0-0, 29 KO) embarrassed challenger Elio Rojas, winning by TKO at 2:02 into the 5th round. Having been out of the ring for over 2 1/2 years due to a nasty contract dispute, Garcia showed absolutely no ring rust in steamrolling Rojas (24-3-0, 14 KO) with thudding combinations that were hammering his opponent at will. After Garcia's 4th knockdown, referee Eddie Claudio had seen enough and would not allow Rojas to continue. Garcia plans to drop down to lightweight, where he should have no problem landing a title shot to get his name back in the good graces of the boxing community.
By Darrin Doyle