Frampton – Santa Cruz II: Even Better Than Last Time
By: John Freund
Hey boxing fans, I’ve got some good news and some even better news. First the good news: there are 4 huge fights scheduled over the next 4 months. Beginning early March, we’re in for some Garcia-Thurman, Haye-Bellew, GGG-Jacobs, and Joshua-Klitschko action (we also get to see Canelo wipe out JCC Jr, in what will hopefully be a lead up to Canelo-GGG… though I’m not holding my breath). And now for the even better news: we don’t have to wait until March to watch a great fight, because this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Vegas is the rematch between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz.
Now, some experts have predicted this fight will be less entertaining than last year’s Fight of the Year candidate, which saw Frampton utilize his trademark elusiveness and excellent counterpunching skill to outpoint Santa Cruz in the early rounds, only to have Santa Cruz turn up the dial on the aggressiveness in the later rounds and transform the boxing match into a slugfest which brought fans out of their seats by the final bell. The theory is that Frampton will go with what worked in the first fight – elusiveness and counterpunching, and avoid letting the fight turn into an all-out brawl, while Santa Cruz won’t charge forward as much, instead opting to carefully pick his spots. The result, claim some boxing analysts, will be a much more cerebral, and therefore less entertaining fight than their first meeting.
Here’s why that’s all wrong:
First off, Santa Cruz is a puncher. You don’t get this far in your career throwing 1,000 punches a fight, then suddenly decide to dial it back and switch up your strategy just because you took your first loss. It would be one thing if Santa Cruz were dominated, but the first fight was very close. So there’s no reason to think that Santa Cruz will go out there and play it safe. Just the opposite, in fact – it’s likely he’ll be even more aggressive in a bid to win those early rounds which he gave away in their first meeting. Even if Santa Cruz does come out cautious, his puncher’s instinct will eventually take over and this thing turns into a war. As Mike Tyson famously said, “They all have a plan… until they get hit.” Whatever Santa Cruz’s plans are going into the fight, it’s only a matter of time before Frampton wallops him like he did in Round 2 of their last fight. Once that happens, all bets are off.
Secondly, the problem in the first fight for Santa Cruz was not his aggressiveness, it was his inability to counter the counter. Santa Cruz looked surprised by Frampton’s counterpunch strategy, and got rocked multiple times early, including that Round 2 left hook which sent him to the ropes. Frampton will likely enter this fight the same way he did the last – playing to his strengths of elusiveness and counterpunching ability. That means Santa Cruz has to get comfortable being 1st and 3rd, since Frampton will most likely be 2nd. I expect Santa Cruz to be just as aggressive as he was in the first fight – if not even moreso, but this time to be prepared for the counter and ready to counter with his own. And given that Carl Frampton is not the type to back away from a boxing match that turns into a fist fight, I’m expecting even more action than we got last time around.
One final reason this fight will be even more entertaining – this is Santa Cruz’s last shot to prove he’s better than Frampton. The pressure is on the Mexican-American to prove that he can beat ‘The Jackal’ and take his title back. Something tells me Santa Cruz is going in with the mindset that he’s got to take the fight away from Frampton; pressure him and break his defense down, not simply play it cautious and pick his spots.
In short, this is the type of fight boxing fans should be salivating over. Two warriors who both know they have to punch their way to victory. With the co-main event featuring another exciting matchup between power punchers Garcia and Zlaticanin, and the fact that both fights are televised on Showtime and not PPV, it looks as if 2017 is off to a strong start indeed.