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Analyst insists McGuigan game plan will be crucial during Frampton rematch

By David Kelly

Top American analyst Al Bernstein believes Shane McGuigan's influence could once again be crucial to the outcome of this weekend's blockbuster showdown in Las Vegas.

WBA World featherweight champion Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz served up a thriller in their first encounter at the Barclays Centre in New York last summer when Bernstein was ringside for US broadcaster Showtime who are screening the rematch in the early hours of Sunday morning, UK time.

Bernstein, who has covered the greats of the sport for the past 35 years, was enthralled by the 12 rounds Frampton and Santa Cruz engaged in - with the Belfast man coming out on top - and expects the fans at the MGM Grand and those on their sofas to enjoy a similar spectacle.

"On the night I thought that Carl did enough to win the fight - it was very close but Carl was so sharp and had such a great game plan. Shane McGuigan is a very good game planner, he always seems to come up with something different and I wouldn't be surprised if that's the same in the rematch. They had a great game plan the last time and Carl executed it," said Bernstein.

"Leo Santa Cruz will say that he needs to be more aggressive and needs to use his natural height and reach advantages more so I would think he will try and keep it more at long range and try to unload his combinations from long range and it will be interesting to see how Carl responds to that.

"In the first fight he showed that the height and reach of Santa Cruz could be countered although Santa Cruz throughout most of his career has not fought like a tall fighter - he likes to fight inside. But if the fight takes place more at close quarters then I think that suits Carl much more.

"One crucial factor is that Carl knows from the first fight that he can hurt Santa Cruz but it didn't look like Santa Cruz could really hurt him and at this level that can be so important. Of course Santa Cruz is a volume puncher and he will try to make that tell.

"As much as I thought the first fight was going to be a very good one, it turned out to be even better than I thought it would be. Carl was exceptional and Santa Cruz was very good as well, that's why it made for such a great fight. Both guys had to make adjustments during the fight, there many close rounds and both guys had their moments."

Bernstein has noted how the manner in which Frampton dethroned Mexican Santa Cruz has brought him much more to the attention of the American public who are eager to see more of the boy from Tigers Bay.

"Carl's profile went up dramatically after the first fight here in the States. He was known by hard-core boxing fans but I think a lot more people sat up and took notice because he was a guy coming from across the Pond and beating one of the top men around that weight, within seven to eight pounds, and it was a great fight," said Bernstein.

"I think that performance on the back of his performance against Scott Quigg, winning two major fights made Carl the Fighter of the Year. He didn't take any stepping stone towards a second weight world title, so you can see why he was the fighter of the year.

"In his first fight in America when he fought the late Alejandro Gonzalez he was down twice and it wasn't the performance he wanted so there may have been some question marks hanging over him but that changed with the win over Santa Cruz.

"People now are genuinely excited about the re-match and that's why the MGM Grand have taken the fight. For two small men to be headlining at the MGM is a big deal.

"The fact that Carl fought at the Barclays Centre will help him for this fight at the MGM because that was a big stage for him and a big atmosphere and that will help with him fighting in Vegas. I can't see anything but another very exciting fight."

Belfast Telegraph

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