The junior featherweight and featherweight divisions have been brimming with match-ups to make boxing drool for some time, and the first couple iterations of those desirable bouts have been compelling yet not outstanding. That changed Saturday night on Showtime when Carl Frampton riveted against Leo Santa Cruz, where the man from Northern Ireland edged a terrific action bout.
There were so many rounds, four or more, where things were so close that picking a victor proved difficult. One judge didn’t, scoring it 114-114. The others had it 116-112 and 117-111 for Frampton. Neither were bad scores.
The thing is, the rounds Frampton won, he won more definitively. He was up 5-2 on TQBR’s scorecard through seven, with two of those close and the 1st going to Santa Cruz and the 7th going to Frampton.
The major differences in the fights: Frampton was the sharper counterpuncher, Frampton had better defense, Frampton was the crisper offensive fighter.
But Santa Cruz more than made a fight of it. He got staggered backward in the 2nd, but otherwise was in the fight start to finish, obviously winning many of the rounds in the second half on our card. The exchanges were fierce: Santa Cruz had stretches where he was caught between boxing and volume punching, but when he punched in loads, he gave himself a chance, while he also gave Frampton a chance to counter.
This is the kind of bout where, while Frampton got the W, no one lost. Look, when the best fight the best, someone has to lose. But you can establish how good you are in a close bout. Santa Cruz comes out of this elevated, despite suffering his first loss.
Frampton could go make some big money against Lee Selby back in Europe. He might as well. Look, 122-126 is great shakes. Saturday, it fulfilled its potential entirely.
On the undercard, Mikey Garcia came out shaky after a long layoff, but power changes everything: He stopped the also-rusty yet feisty Elio Rojas in the 5th round of their lightweight bout, following two knockdowns in the 3rd and two more in the 5th.
Junior middleweight Tony Harrison stopped Sergey Rabchenko after dropping him with a big right hand, and the ref saw that Rabchenko wasn’t totally ready. It had been a one-sided boxing exhibition before that.