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Frampton v Santa Cruz: Jackal Carl has plenty of challengers with Mares top of list

By David Kelly

As the biggest box office attraction in the featherweight division Carl Frampton has a large target on his back and one man who is coming into view as a challenger to the Jackal before the end of the year is Mexican Abner Mares.

Mares has arrived in Las Vegas to be ringside to witness Frampton's re-match with Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand Garden, with his sights set on the Belfast man should he once again prove to be the better man.

A former holder of the WBC featherweight title, Mares knows all about Santa Cruz having lost to his fellow countryman in an epic 12 rounder in 2015.

Such is the state of boxing with numerous World titles on offer, Mares is now the holder of the WBA 9st 'regular' belt, while the same governing body describes Frampton as their 'Super' champion, ie the number one in the World.

If Frampton is to defeat Santa Cruz then a further return to the States before the end of the year could easily lead to a duel with Mares as fight fans and television executives would salivate at the thought of such a battle.

However Saturday night's clash turns out, 31-year-old Mares knows he has placed himself in a great position on the back of defeating Jesus Cuellar last year to lift the WBA belt.

Indeed, should Lee Selby lose his IBF belt to mandatory challenger Jonathan Barros on the same bill then Mares could jump to the head of the queue for a date with the Jackal.

Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph Mares said: "Beating Cuellar and winning the world title again was like me winning the World title for the first time. I had been written off because of two losses. I had lost to Leo... and I proved that I still have the abilities to be at the very top.

"The first fight was terrific, it was very close but as someone who knows the sport, who's a fighter, I thought Carl won clearly.

"It was really something beautiful to sit and watch the way Carl put his game plan into effect. It was very simple and effective. He was out of range from Leo's long shots and he was so close to him at times as well that Leo couldn't get his shots off. He made it so uncomfortable for Leo and that's why he won it clearly.

"Because Leo throws a high volume of punches he's always going to keep it entertaining. The first one was a great fight and the next fight will be the same.

"Leo will probably try and come out with even more volume and try to get the better of Frampton early on but I believe that Carl will win again on points because he's the more skilful fighter. Leo might have another game plan but I can't see it.

"A fight between myself and Leo would be huge because he won our first fight and it was exciting and for him to win back his belt and then face me it would be huge. I want the winner of Frampton-Santa Cruz next and I would love to go to Carl's back yard and fight him.

"I don't mind where I fight and I know that over there in the UK I'm respected... I've got skills, he's got the skills and I can bang and he can bang. I can see there being a few knockdowns in the fight with me and Carl. Even if Carl loses that would still be a very big fight between the two of us."

One factor in Frampton-Santa Cruz II that Mares is keen to see play out is just how champion Frampton handles the biggest stage in World boxing, the MGM Grand Las Vegas.

"It changes everything fighting in Las Vegas. It's amazing, it's the mecca for showbusiness and when you go there you feel an extra expectation to entertain and the buzz around Vegas can inspire you to show people what you've got or it can break you."

Belfast Telegraph

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