Carl Frampton thinks Leo Santa Cruz’s Mexican pride prompted the immediate rematch, but the Belfast native believes he is making a huge mistake.
Frampton (32-0 14KO) defends his WBA ‘Super’ World featherweight title against Santa Cruz (32-1-1 18KO) on January 28 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
The 29-year-old has recently been awarded The Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year 2016 after a win over long-time rival Scott Quigg in February, and then upsetting the odds in July to beat three-weight world champion, Santa Cruz.
The Jackal thinks his opponent’s native toughness and fighting spirit meant a rematch was inevitable, but knows he’s got to be switched on for a more convincing outcome.
“I think Mexican pride has made him go straight back in at the deep end and say ‘I want the fight again’,” Frampton said. “I think they’re making a big mistake jumping in straight away.”
“If I’m switched on from the start to the finish, however it finishes, then I win the fight.”
“I need to be careful, I can’t think that I can take everything that Leo Santa Cruz has to throw at me, and I think he needs to be very careful too.”
A hand injury threatened to derail preparations for their first encounter, but Frampton’s resilience and his team’s attention to detail during camp erased any doubts leading up to July 31, 2016.
A majority decision win – scores of 114-114 116-112 and 117-111 elevated the two-weight world champion into one of boxing’s most marketable, exciting fighters.
After such a remarkable 2016 – becoming WBA ‘Super’ champ and ESPN Fighter of the Year to name a few accolades, the desire to recapture that burning motivation may have been a struggle, but Frampton is certain he wants it more than ever.
“I’m hungry to prove people this wasn’t a fluke,” he said. “I believe that there’s a lot more to come from me.
“I’ve been performing better behind closed doors for this camp. I’ve been knocking sparring partners out and I’ve been hitting people hard.
“I think that I win this fight more convincingly, I really do.”
With a Santa Cruz victory, without question, a third fight would be scheduled for mid-to-late 2017 to settle a pulsating, thoroughly enjoyable clash of two exceptional fighters in their own right.
But a Frampton masterclass leaves the door wide open for several, fascinating matchups. One on the top of that list for the 29-year-old is IBF featherweight champion, Lee Selby.
“If it’s two nil to me, which I intend it to be, I think I’d rather move on and fight someone like Lee Selby in the UK, I think that would be a huge fight.”
“Although he’s been a champion at featherweight for longer than me, I feel like I’m more established now at featherweight,” Frampton added on Selby’s IBF reign.
“From here to the end I want them all to be big fights, and Selby is a big fight. I would like to have three fights this year. The main thing for me is the fight in Belfast this summer.”