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Carl Frampton the best of 2016, says US TV boss Espinoza

By David Kelly

American television powerbroker Stephen Espinoza has hailed Carl Frampton as the World fighter of the year for 2016 ahead of the Jackal’s mouthwatering re-match with Leo Santa Cruz.

Frampton and Santa Cruz came face to face once more at an outdoor news conference outside the Los Angeles Public Library just two days after being in Belfast to express their high expectations for the return battle on January 28 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Espinoza is the head of sports at the top American cable network Showtime who are broadcasting the showdown, just as they did in July when Frampton and Santa Cruz served up arguably the fight of the year.

“For me Carl Frampton is the 2016 fighter of the year. Nobody else did what he did,” said Espinoza.

"Carl Frampton unified the titles at super-bantamweight and then went straight up to win a second world title against a three-weight world champion."

Frampton looked as relaxed as ever in the LA sunshine as he addressed the media and public gathered to listen to the two rivals.

Just as in Belfast's Europa Hotel 48 hours earlier, there was mutual respect and a general consensus that the fans are in for a real treat next month.

Frampton said: "I think this re-match going to be an amazing fight.

"It can't be any different from the first so we're kicking off 2017 with a bang.

"Straight after the first fight I was more than happy to give Leo the re-match because if you want people to remember you in 20 or 30 years time you need to be fighting guys like Leo Santa Cruz.

"I respect him a lot and I know it's going to be a tough fight. I'm preparing very hard and I'll do whatever it takes to bring the belt back to Belfast."

American co-promoter Richard Schaefer described both men as "modern gladiators" and revealed that hald of the tickets that went on sale were sold on the first day.

Challenger Santa Cruz is adamant that he will have his revenge on January 28.

"Carl showed that he's a great fighter in our first fight. I believe if I make adjustments that I can win the fight. This re-match will be tough, we'll give you another fight of the year - even better than the first time," said Santa Cruz.

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