More Than A Belt: Santa Cruz vs Frampton
By: Brandon Bernica
Dreams come to life in the Big Apple. Lives constantly intersect. People from far-reaching locations around the globe converge in this concrete jungle in hopes of capturing the American dream. In New York, competition to the top is a little stiffer, but the opportunities are a little more grandiose.
Saturday night will pit Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton against one another for the WBA Featherweight World Championship. The fight will happen in Brooklyn, New York amidst a crowd of city dwellers who are all too familiar with the struggles of proving oneself. Because, whether Santa Cruz or Frampton realize it or not, more than a belt is at stake in this fight. Just like New York’s inhabitants, they both fought to distinguish themselves from the crowd; now, they will attempt to carve legacies enduring far beyond the splendor of a singular win.
See, fans sometimes look back on these types of fights with remorse, not having comprehended the significance of these matchups when they happened. Truthfully, the glow of this bout hides behind the circumstances around it. Take that the PBC consistently receives flack for showcasing non-intriguing one-sided fights. When a gem such as this one sparkles brightest amongst a lackluster schedule, it’s hard to determine just how compelling the fight really is. In addition, HBO aired a PPV this past Saturday featuring Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol. While experts probably would tout Santa Cruz vs. Frampton as the better choice, being on PPV can make fights appear greater than their actual value.
Two undefeated fighters butting heads is a no-brainer win. But the fighters’ rich resumes and their individual fighting styles accentuate this bout as extraordinary. Both of their resume’s shine with exceptional wins. However, their only shared opponent is Kiko Martinez, a rugged veteran from Spain. Frampton demolished him with two knockouts in two blood-rushing fights, while Santa Cruz went toe-to-toe with Martinez en-route to a stoppage of his own. Martinez (a former champion himself) and his losses to these two men confirm just how far ahead of the pack both Santa Cruz and Frampton are heading into Saturday night’s clash.
Style-wise, this matchup flourishes as a potential slugfest. Frampton excels on both the back foot and front foot, depending on the style he needs to win. He demonstrates power and grit, cycling between gears with ease. Santa Cruz, however, knows one gear: forward. He marches ahead and relentlessly bombards his foes with punches that never seem to seize. While nerves could freeze both fighters into more cautionary styles, something tells me that competing at such a high level will bring the best out of both men. Youth vs. youth. Length (Santa Cruz) vs. compact punching (Frampton). Who wants it more? Who can adapt better?
To add flavor to the storylines surrounding the bout, both men hail from boxing-rich traditions. Frampton comes from the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, to be exact) while Mexican blood courses through Santa Cruz’s veins. Fans from both Mexico and the United Kingdom share rabid passion for their brethren in the fighting ranks. With the rise of various world-ranked fighters from both nations, the potential for a boxing rivalry to form only grows stronger. You can bet the last dollar in your wallet that each side will cheer their lungs out for their man to come out on top.
In the end, country pride looms as a sliver of the backdrop to this pertinent matchup. Boxing’s current landscape opposes top-level fights in favor of money-making draws. Substance decays on the backburner in favor of sizzle. As fans, we wait years for ideal meetings of talent in the ring. Yet we’re so conditioned by the disappointment of boxing politics that it’s tempting to care less when we’re finally thrown a bone. Don’t fall into the trap. Hindsight is 20/20, and years from now, this bout could be known as the defining bout in both Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton’s careers.