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New champion Santa Cruz hails his 'perfect game plan' as key to victory over Carl Frampton

By David Kelly

Leo Santa Cruz came into the ring smiling and as he left the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas he was beaming even more at having won back the WBA World featherweight title at the first attempt.

Santa Cruz admitted that he felt a great deal of pressure going into the fight, believing that his career was on the line and in the knowledge that many believed he was about to suffer a second defeat at the hands of Carl Frampton.

On the back of his victory over Santa Cruz six months ago at the Barclays Centre in New York, Frampton received a plethora of awards including the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year gong and the Mexican used that as even more motivation to defeat the Belfast man.

"Carl Frampton is a great man, he gave me a helluva fight. I always said he has everything, great skills, great footwork, great power… this time I came with a great game plan," said Santa Cruz.

"My dad and my brother and I worked very hard and I had it in my mind that if I had lost to him I was probably going to retire because I'm here to be the best and if he had beaten me I probably wouldn't have fought again.

"I wanted to prove to people they were wrong, there were a lot of experts who thought that I would lose but I went out and followed the perfect game plan.

"Carl had become a top 10 pound for pound fighter after our first fight, he had been given the Fighter of the Year award and I wanted to go and show people that I can be that fighter as well.

"I wanted to put pressure on him but also I had to be smart, I had to get the win by being smart and that's what I did.

"I worked hard and did what I had to. I fought a great fighter. He is a great fighter and a great counter-puncher.

"It was tough to change my style, in my head I wanted to go for it, but I was told to box him and that's what I did."

Santa Cruz had insisted all week that having his father Jose, who is in remission after a battle with cancer last year, throughout his camp would make a difference and he believes that showed on Saturday night.

"My dad said that if I listen to him then I will win the fight and that's what I did. It really feels like winning my first world title all over again," added Santa Cruz.

Meanwhile, fellow Mexican Abner Mares said he is eager to have a re-match with Santa Cruz after being at ringside to witness his victory over Frampton.

"Leo used the same tactics to defeat Frampton as he did against me and they worked for him. He did a very good job, using his reach," said Mares, who holds the WBA regular title.

"Carl and I are quite similar in the way we fight so it worked again for Leo. He has said that he will give me the re-match and I hope it will happen because that would be a huge fight for Mexico. It just depends on whether he has a third fight with Frampton."

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