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Fantastic Carl Frampton an all-time great after clinching WBA crown

Carl secures legend status as he is crowned Northern Ireland's first two-weight World champion in real style

By David Kelly

With every brick-fisted blow and every granite-chinned absorption of punishment, Carl Frampton copper-fastened his legacy as an all-time great sportsman in Brooklyn's Barclays Centre.

Undefeated IBF/WBA World super-bantamweight champion, Frampton is now the WBA World featherweight king - the first Northern Ireland man to win World belts at two different weights and in a fashion that will be talked about for as long as local boxers lace up gloves.

One judge surprisingly gave it a draw at 114-114, the other two having it 116-112 and 117-111 - the final card a little harsh on the dethroned champion Leo Santa Cruz, who fought with every bit as much intensity as the Belfast man.

Ultimately, Frampton, watched at ringside by golf superstar Rory McIlroy and Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill among others, had the ring intelligence to launch his assaults in a manner which had maximum impact, while also being able to ride out the moments of concern when Santa Cruz got on top - most notably in the 11th round.

But on this night Frampton (below) was never going to be denied emulating his manager Barry McGuigan by winning the WBA 9st belt.

The Clones Cyclone's reign ended in Las Vegas in the summer of 1986, in the furnace of a Caesar's Palace casino car park, and 30 years on he was reduced to tears as Frampton pulled off a feat for the ages.

Any worries that some had about the step up in weight from 122lb to 126lb for this fight were cast aside as Frampton demonstrated he was the harder puncher early on against the three-weight champion and in the final three minutes he still had the energy to win the round.

"I wanted to stamp my authority. I wasn't going to let Santa Cruz push me around. I got a few harsh rounds in the corner because I was fighting with my heart rather than my head. Distance and control was the game plan, to hit him hard and hurt him early," said Frampton.

"Leo hit me with better shots than Alejandro Gonzalez did last year but I was boiling myself down to super-bantamweight then and it was having a negative effect on my performance. Would I have had enough in the tank against Leo Santa Cruz at 122lb?"

Having walked to the ring to the tune of 'Will Grigg's On Fire', Frampton calmly awaited the opening bell and it was evident that the 29-year-old Belfast man had the greater share of support in the packed arena as legendary MC Jimmy Lennon jnr made the obligatory announcements.

The Jackal would immediately show Santa Cruz that he was more than ready to stand and trade at close quarters and the fight which unfolded was such a credit to both men that referee Harvey Dock was a bystander for the best part of the 36 minutes of action.

Throughout his career Santa Cruz has enjoyed being on the front foot, unloading an average 100 punches a round, but while he still finished with a tally of 1,000, only 255 landed due to the Jackal's smart upper body movement and sharp footwork.

Frampton, for the record, landed 242 but so many more had a wicked, vicious impact than those coming from the 27-year-old Mexican.

That was all too evident in the second round when a left hand staggered Santa Cruz, who was also tagged with a solid right as Frampton moved in and out with ease - completely making the Mexican's six-inch reach advantage redundant.

Clearly disturbed by Frampton's movement and smart assaults, Santa Cruz got a foothold in the fourth round and by the halfway mark the Belfast man looked as if he was two rounds ahead.

Still in front, with little between the two after some fine exchanges, the arena sounded out a rendition of 'Danny Boy' before the fighters came out for the 10th round. The battle was on a knife edge.

Frampton still had the edge but lost rounds 10 and 11, so to put a golden seal on his history-making feat he needed a big final round - and he delivered.

The crowd rose to both men as they surged forward seeking to catch the eye of the judges but it was the more measured work of Frampton which won the 12th and completed his mission.

There was a slight scare when the first judge had it as a draw but then came the jubilation. A moment to savour for everyone in Team Frampton and the whole of Northern Ireland.

Frampton is now dining at the top table of world boxing - and he's as hungry as ever.

Round by round

Round One: Frampton quickly makes his mark on the fight with his solid blows, showing Santa Cruz that he has the greater power and also the movement to make it the most awkward night of the champion’s career. Just the start the Jackal wanted as he takes the round.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

Round Two: Santa Cruz digs a right to the body and then a left hook but then a significant moment has the Frampton fans on their feet as he lands with a left hook which sends Santa Cruz staggering back to the ropes. The Jackal moves in for the kill but not recklessly. He is looking to find another concussive blow but credit to the Mexican, who stands his ground and fires back.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

Round Three: The left hand lands again from Frampton and then Santa Cruz responds with a right before the Belfast man connects with an uppercut which slaps back the champion’s head. Good body shot lands from Frampton and he makes his opponent fall short with many of his punches.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

Round Four: Left hook to the head from Santa Cruz while Frampton lands a left to the body. Double jab lands for Santa Cruz. Another left to the body lands for Frampton but Santa Cruz starts to find his range and takes the round with his volume of work.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 10 Frampton 9

Round Five: Quick right lands for Frampton. Santa Cruz gets in a left. They trade jabs. Santa Cruz digs to the body, which brings an automatic response from Frampton. Solid counter right lands for Frampton and stops Santa Cruz in his tracks. Left hook lands for Frampton. Another left and a right for Frampton. Round to Frampton.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

Round Six: Quick left to the body lands for Frampton. Santa Cruz digs to the body, but he eats one in return. They trade big shots on the inside. Hard body shots land for Frampton but Santa Cruz still firing away. Good left lands for Santa Cruz followed by a hard right. Some body shots land for Santa Cruz and he edges the round.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 10 Frampton 9

Round Seven: Frampton sticks him with a jab. Santa Cruz comes forward and chops away at the body. Frampton fires back, but the work rate of Santa Cruz continues. The closest round yet as they trade quality shots in a fight that is living up to all expectations.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 10 Frampton 10

Round Eight: Good exchanges of body shots and while Santa Cruz is throwing more leather it is the blows of the Belfast man which are having the greater effect. In the latter stages of the round, Frampton quality one-twos to edge it.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

Round Nine: Santa Cruz comes forward and fires to the body. Good left uppercut lands for Frampton. Right to the body lands for Frampton and he is managing to score while also blocking and slipping the blows coming his way as he judges the distance to perfection.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

Round Ten: Santa Cruz presses forward and lands a very good uppercut before a further combination raps Frampton. This is the best round for Santa Cruz in some time as they continue to trade heavy shots throughout the three minutes.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 10 Frampton 9

Round Eleven: Both men come out swinging but Frampton seems to be tiring a little as Santa Cruz maintains his pressure. Frampton keeps looking to land his big blows but this is a clear round for the Mexican, who is getting the better of the exchanges.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 10 Frampton 9

Round Twelve: Frampton immediately lands a right hand followed by a sharp one-two before Santa Cruz responds with his own combinations. But Frampton is showing extra reserves of energy and winning the round with his smart footwork and single blows which are stopping Santa Cruz in his tracks.

SCORE: Santa Cruz 9 Frampton 10

KELLY VERDICT: Frampton 116 Santa Cruz 113

Belfast Telegraph


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