Carl Frampton ready to rock Las Vegas showdown with Santa Cruz
Shane McGuigan knows the depth of potential within Carl Frampton better than most and is yearning to see his friend and fighter shift through all his gears in the early hours of Sunday morning in the MGM Grand.
McGuigan has been honing Frampton from Commonwealth title success through to European, unified World super-bantamweight champion and then a two-weight title holder when outpointing Leo Santa Cruz last summer in Brooklyn, New York. Now comes the return between the two warriors.
Fans and television executives are hoping for another nailbiting, wafer-thin close encounter but McGuigan wants more than that from his WBA World featherweight champion.
While many lauded Frampton's performance at the Barclays Centre when he dethroned Santa Cruz after 12 brutal rounds, McGuigan is adamant that we have still to see the very best of the Jackal.
"Carl was only 80 per cent of what he could have been against Santa Cruz in the first fight. Santa Cruz probably thinks he was 80 per cent of what he could be and Carl had the fight of his life but there is more to come from Carl," said McGuigan.
"I have watched the first fight again and I could see how he could have made it an easier win for himself and we have talked about that. The thing about Carl is that he knows when he needs to step it up and I see that in the gym… he knows what he has to do to just win rounds but then when he wants he can go up to another level.
"For me his best performance is still the one against Chris Avalos in the first defence of his IBF super-bantamweight title. I don't think Carl has been on that level since, there's something about fighting at home that just seems to bring something more out of him. I loved the way he fought that night, the way he used his feet, the way he took Avalos apart but you can't fight everyone like that.
"I think you're going to see a great performance this time against Santa Cruz because he has worked his whole life to be here headlining at the MGM.
"I remember in the last fight after the fifth round in which he boxed beautifully, I said 'that's it, that's how you box, it's easy' and I think when I used the word 'easy' it made him think of the Scott Quigg fight and he didn't want to be in a dull fight again. He wants to be a hero in America but he doesn't have to stand and have a brawl with people to be a star in America, he just has to do what he's best at.
"The last time he got clipped with a few too many shots so that can improve and he knows he can go 12 hard rounds and still be hitting as hard in the last round as he was in the first whereas Santa Cruz's strength dips a bit when he gets into the championship rounds."
Preparing to meet Santa Cruz for a second time, McGuigan believed he needed to have a slight change in the sparring and brought in unbeaten Spanish super-featherweight Jon Fernandez who seems to have pushed the champion even harder.
"Fernandez is an incredibly talented fighter and he's been pushing Carl because he's a better fighter than Santa Cruz. That has brought Carl on. He's a really good inside fighter and hits harder than Santa Cruz as well," he said.
McGuigan has also been weighing up what to expect from Santa Cruz who is hungry for revenge.
"He hasn't admitted defeat in the first fight, he hasn't accepted that what he was doing did not catch the eyes of the judges," said McGuigan.
"Whatever he thinks, when he gets hit he will remember how hurt he was in the first fight.
"I really believe you're going to see a better performance from Carl in this fight."