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Santa Cruz couldn't cope with Carl Frampton's expert timing, speed and precision footwork

By Steve Bunce

It was a dream fight that left Barry McGuigan in tears of joy. Carl Frampton performed a flawless dance of grace and power to win the WBA featherweight World title.

It is the same belt that Barry first won 30 years ago at Loftus Road in west London. Since that night, 13 men have strapped the WBA belt on and McGuigan has become the fighting saint of Ireland. His protege's victory will challenge his title as the King of the fighting Irish.

Frampton's control and belief were astounding and the betting favourite, the unbeaten champion Leo Santa Cruz, was often made to look like a clueless witness.

The Mexican's cornermen had no remedy for Frampton's tiny genius and started shrugging their shoulders at the end. Santa Cruz mumbled something about the Irish crowd swaying the judges, but even he lacked the heart to deny Frampton his glory.

Frampton was shorter and conceded six inches in reach but all of Santa Cruz's very real physical advantages vanished once the Jackal's timing, footwork and speed started to shape the brawl.

Santa Cruz has a way of fighting that is easy on the eye. Defeat was not an option, not a scheduled pit stop on his journey to the higher divisions, and after 11 World title wins in four years he lost his belt and his unbeaten record in fight number 34. Frampton beat a great boxer.

The fight changed in round two when Frampton timed a short left hook to precision and connected cleanly to send Santa Cruz wobbling back into the ropes.

It was the dreadful moment when the Santa Cruz camp realised he was in trouble and, it has to be said, it was a moment they had not considered.

Frampton said: "I knew it was about angles, I told people that and everybody just kept on smiling at me. I hurt him, he knew it and I just had to stay calm and not get involved."

Frampton's words are applicable to every boxer in any gruelling fight away from home against an unbeaten champion - the difference is that he did exactly what he had to do and his trainer Shane, who is Barry's son, deserves praise. It was a masterclass and that was the only possible way he was ever going to win.

The pair worked magic, outwitting experienced men, one or two of whom were a bit condescending in the build-up.

Shane is younger than Carl, the pair met as amateurs in the Belfast championships and he also trains David Haye and George Groves. It was early for the traditional fairytale in New York, but you get the picture.

Santa Cruz did have a smile on his face in rounds six and seven and then again briefly in nine and 10, but these were rounds that he could have nicked on the scorecards, not ones he dominated. It was tight at the final bell as McGuigan dropped his head into his hands and neither boxer celebrated like they knew they had done enough.

The first score was a draw, which was not outrageous, and the boxers stood silent as the final two scores were announced by the peerless Jimmy Lennon Jr; it was 116-112 and 117-111 to Frampton and then the tears started to flow.

The dream, they said, will continue and there will be a rematch or unification fights, grand nights in Belfast, emotional returns to New York and sieges of Las Vegas. The plans and joy of a little fighter and his fearless team of believers continue.

Belfast Telegraph

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