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Frampton v Santa Cruz: I'll beat Carl and we'll have decider in Belfast, vows Leo

By David Kelly

The hungry fighter seeking to make his way up from extreme poverty is a tale that has been replicated throughout the history of boxing and Leo Santa Cruz is the walking embodiment of someone living out the latest chapter.

A three-weight world champion with a bank balance he could hardly have dreamed of when growing up in a gang-ridden Los Angeles town, Santa Cruz insists that without such a background he could not have risen to the heights of recent years, establishing himself as one of the best fighters on the planet.

The pride and hunger that drove him to be a success burns as brightly as ever, maybe even more so as he seeks to reclaim the WBA World featherweight title from Northern Ireland hero Carl Frampton here in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, Santa Cruz said: "What has made me the fighter I am today is my family and the fans. Every time I go into the ring I think about the fans and my family and without them I wouldn't be where I'm at.

"Growing up very, very poor it made me hungrier and so everything I did it was with real dedication to my dream that one day I could have the money to buy my family a house - to be somebody.

"You know I was growing up in an apartment with only one room and sometimes we didn't have the money to pay for the electricity bill and so we had to use candles to light up the house and we couldn't cook because we hadn't paid the gas bill. And sometimes going to the gym we didn't have gas for the car or had to borrow $15 so we could drive to the gym.

"Where we grew up in LA it was dangerous with a lot of gangs and there was a lot of shooting - everywhere you looked there were homeless people and I knew that through boxing and working hard we could move to a better neighbourhood.

"I didn't hang out with friends, I went to school and did homework and then I would go to the gym. I did have friends but some of them would hang out and smoke weed but I wouldn't do that - from an early age I knew what I wanted to do. My mum and dad always encouraged me to work hard, don't do drugs and follow your dream and that's what I did."

Having suffered his first loss at the hands of Frampton at the Barclays Centre last summer, Santa Cruz's pride and passion will be brought to the ring in abundance and also a great deal of respect for the man in the opposite corner.

"When I look at Carl I see myself, we have two young families and that's why we fight. When we go into the ring, that's what it is all about - giving our families a better life," added Santa Cruz, who insists that when the dust settles on their second showdown the respect will remain.

"We'll sit down and have a beer together… Carl's a great guy and if he takes the victory then I'll shake his hand and tell him he deserved it.

"And if I get the win it'll be the same thing, we'll sit down and have a talk and then talk about having the third fight," said Santa Cruz.

"I'm prepared to go to Belfast for the third fight. It would be natural to have the third fight right away."

He added: "Our rivalry is special, it's like rivalries from the past that people always talk about like Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera."

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