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Frampton v Santa Cruz: 'I'll beat very best and become one of greats,' vows Carl

By David Kelly

Winston Churchill once said the empires of the future are the empires of the mind and the authoritative demeanour of Carl Frampton in Las Vegas suggests the legacy he is building will be cemented even further tomorrow night.

Heading into battle, the grey matter state is all-important and as Frampton closes in on the re-match with Leo Santa Cruz he senses that in the gambling mecca this is his ace card.

The WBA World featherweight champion is at ease with the increasing demands of the media and the thought of another punishing 12-rounder with the Mexican from whom he took the title to become Northern Ireland's first two-weight world champion, spending a great deal of time with supporters, even when the MGM Grand security were eager to usher him away.

This is his stage now, the place to show his gladiatorial supremacy against an opponent whom he expects will draw out another memorable display.

"It's my second fight at featherweight, I'm more relaxed and going into this fight I have the psychological edge. I've already beaten this guy, I've hurt him as well so psychologically I've the upper hand," said Frampton.

"Two fights ago I was the super-bantamweight champion and I was killing myself to make the weight but I'm very relaxed now. Usually the last week leading up to a fight I hated it because I was training a lot to make weight but now I'm just ready to go.

"I want to prove that I'm the better fighter and that all the awards I picked up at the end of the year are justified. Leo has spoken about retiring if he loses this fight which I don't think he should do because there's no shame in losing to a top quality fighter in competitive fights.

"I'm not really looking into too much that he says, I think he's going to be the same tough Leo Santa Cruz, it's going to be an exciting fight but I can win the fight more convincingly.

"If you look at Leo's style, it's a great style. I don't think he will be much different than the first fight. He may get desperate as the fight goes on and I can capitalise on that. I feel that I have the power to knock him out. I'm not criticising Leo as a fighter in saying that or his chin but I just believe that if I hit anyone around these weight divisions on the chin clean then they can go out."

The respect between the two men is never far away, to the point that even in showing his confidence the 29-year-old Belfast man feels the need to make clear that he is in no way underestimating the challenge ahead.

"When you share the ring with a man for 12 rounds and fight like we did, you have a lifelong respect. It just automatically happens and to the end of our days me and Leo will think fondly of each other. He's genuinely a nice guy, I like him a lot but this is a business and if I see any sort of chance to get the job done and take him out I'm going to do that and it's the same for him," added Frampton.

"I think his style will bring out the best in me. I like to fight aggressive fighters, I prefer guys coming to me rather than me going looking for them so his style just suits me down to the ground.

"I have to make a few adjustments, I got caught a few too many times, I went back in straight lines a bit too much and got drawn into a fight. Leo has very long arms so I need to be cautious because he's got a long wingspan so I need to be switched on.

"I've a good boxing brain and a game plan going into this fight. I want to win and make it as easy for myself as possible.

"I feel that I'm improving, a lot of people are slowing down when they come to my age but I genuinely believe that I'm an improving fighter."

With that improvement comes the desire to sign up for battles that will live long in the memory for his supporters.

Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Barry McGuigan looks on as son and trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan does some pads work in the ring with Carl Frampton during training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan wraps Carl Frampton's hands before training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Trainer Shane McGuigan wraps Carl Frampton's hands before training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Barry McGuigan looks on as trainer Shane McGuigan wraps Carl Frampton's hands before training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas.
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured training today in a Las Vegas gym ahead of next Saturdays WBA featherweight title rematch against Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino,Las Vegas. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st January 2017 - Photo by William Cherry

"Easy fights don't appeal to me. I could go home and fight an unknown guy and sell-out but I don't want to con the fans. I want to be involved in fights that I get hyped up for, just big names."

He added: "The belts are important but the names are also important, maybe even more important. I want to be remembered for being in good fights, memorable fights against quality opposition."

Every sound bite has the tone of victory, the Frampton empire appears stronger than ever...

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