Lee Selby talks Santa Cruz-Frampton, wants to fight winner
When Leo Santa Cruz defends his WBA featherweight title against Carl Frampton at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, one man will be in the arena on a serious reconnaissance mission.
Lee Selby (23-1, 8 knockouts) is the reigning IBF titleholder at 126 pounds and will be leaving for New York on Thursday. Eager for a defining fight and the dollars that go with it, the talented Welshman is anxious to face the winner and has extensive knowledge of the participants.
“Santa Cruz has size, reach and a very high work rate,” said Selby who is rated No. 3 by THE RING at featherweight. “He brings a lot of pressure, good punch power, a reliable chin and he’s extremely fit. He’s also been at world level for a long time and has plenty of experience.
“Frampton is a very good boxer; he punches hard and he’s the more versatile of the two. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve heard reports that Santa Cruz mixes it up in sparring by boxing and fighting but we’ve yet to see that in the ring. Under the lights, he’s a typical Mexican who loves to attack.”
In the past, Frampton has excelled when under fire but, this time, it will be a much bigger man chasing him down. Santa Cruz enjoys a two-and-a-half-inch height advantage, as well as a seven-inch reach advantage. He’s also had three fights at 126 pounds, whereas Frampton will be making his featherweight debut.
“I honestly don’t think the weight will be an issue,” said Selby before providing a logical explanation for adopting that stance. “Santa Cruz is still a junior featherweight in my eyes and could probably make 122 pounds if he had to. At 126 pounds, he has wins over Abner Mares and Kiko Martinez but both of them moved up from junior featherweight.
“It’s the height and reach advantages that could make life difficult for Frampton. Even though Santa Cruz is constantly applying pressure, he does throw plenty of straight punches. He doesn’t use his reach the way I do, by moving and boxing, but he can still use it by being aggressive.”
So, who prevails? Santa Cruz and Frampton both carry state-of-the-art weaponry and a solid argument can be made for champion and challenger. A large majority of fans and experts are finding it difficult to pick a winner and Selby himself was on the fence when asked for his own prediction.
“I don’t think Santa Cruz can outbox Frampton and the only way he can win is to stay aggressive from bell to bell,” he said. “If Frampton maintains his boxing and doesn’t hold his feet, then he can get the victory. It’s a real 50/50 fight and it’s hard to make a straight pick.
“Whoever starts the fastest and dictates the pattern of the fight will get the win but I definitely want Frampton to pull it off.”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Selby is pulling for Frampton to emerge victorious. A unification clash on UK soil would be a huge event with a considerable payday attached. That said, Selby insists he would be perfectly happy to face Santa Cruz if that’s how the chips fall.
“I’ve heard talk that (Frampton’s team) are up for it next,” said Selby enthusiastically. “I think it would be a bad move for them to be honest but who else is out there for him? They want big fights against the likes of myself.
“Santa Cruz is up for fighting me because he’s mentioned it in several interviews. In the buildup to the Frampton fight, he’s stated in press releases and in video interviews that he hopes to come though against Frampton and meet me next.”
With this trio in place, as well as WBC titlist Gary Russell Jr. and newly-crowned WBO beltholder Oscar Valdez, no matter what unfolds on Saturday, the featherweight division will be red hot for the foreseeable future.
Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing.