Saturday, March 25, 2023  |


Fight Picks: Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton

Photo: William Cherry

On Saturday, Leo Santa Cruz puts his WBA featherweight strap on the line against Carl Frampton in arguably one of the most eagerly awaited fights of the summer at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn on Showtime, the broadcast begins at 9:00 p.m ET/6 p.m. PT.

The matchup pits the hard-charging Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 knockouts) against the smoother boxing style of Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs).

Santa Cruz, 27, has already won major titles in three weight classes, 118, 122 and 126, going 11-0 (6) in world title fights, while Frampton, 29, is seeking a third major title in his second weight class, going 4-0 (1) in world title bouts.

Santa Cruz scored a career-best win last August when he outworked Abner Mares by majority decision, while Frampton’s best win came last February when he outpointed Scott Quigg.

To his credit, Frampton, has moved from junior featherweight to featherweight and, without a warm-up fight, has sought out one of the toughest 126-pounders in the world.

While both have maintained their unbeaten records and have looked to test themselves, this is their biggest test to date. Santa Cruz is susceptible to being outboxed; Frampton would appear to have the skills to do just that but Santa Cruz will be the bigger man at 5-foot-7 ½ compared to the Irishman’s 5-foot-5. However, the defending titleholder will have a seven-inch reach advantage.

How will Frampton handle Santa Cruz’s nonstop aggression? Can he hurt the Mexican and keep his swarming style under control? Frampton will know he needs to get off to a good start because Santa Cruz will be expected to close strongly. However, Santa Cruz will know that he needs to start earlier than Quigg did against Frampton and not leave it till the final third of the fight to push the action.

Online gambling group lists Santa Cruz as a 2/5 (-250) favorite while Frampton is priced at 2/1 (+200). asked 27 boxing insiders for their picks:

Mitch Abramson,
Leo Santa Cruz TKO 10 Carl Frampton: I think Leo’s height, power and comfort at the weight will be too much for Frampton. While I see a hotly-contested fight for the first six rounds, I see Santa Cruz slowly taking over and stopping Frampton in the 10th.

Tony Borg, Lee Selby’s trainer
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: I see it as a close fight; unless either of them makes the mistake of looking to trade too early, it could be a long distance fight. (Frampton)’s got a lot on his hands with Santa Cruz; he’s a very good capable fighter. Probably leaning towards Santa Cruz but Frampton can do it if he keeps his head together and picks the pace up a little. He’s got to go over there to win the fight, not just go through the motions like he did with Quigg. You aren’t going to win a fight on the back foot against a pressure fighter; you’ve got to take it to him. I think it’ll be a points decision for Santa Cruz unless Frampton does something wrong and gets caught. I think Frampton is capable of going the distance with him.

Eric Bottjer, Roc Nation Sports matchmaker
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: I pick Santa Cruz by decision. I feel he will win on volume punching in the late rounds after a fairly even go in the early-to-mid-rounds.

Robert Diaz, Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker
Carl Frampton to beat Leo Santa Cruz: Very good fight because of what both guys bring, both undefeated. Both have their strengths and, most importantly, both want to win. Leo has the advantage as he has been here before and has fought at the weight before. His nonstop pace is key for him and his body attack. I believe Frampton will rise to the occasion and surprise many. I predict he will have fans’ support come fight night and that will motivate him to give that extra. If he sticks to a game plan and boxes on the outside and uses the ring rather than brawl, in short, he can pose a lot of problems for Leo. End of the day, I see a good fight and an even match. I believe the fresher fighter will have his hand raised at the end of the night and he will return home with the title to the masses of fans back home. I am going upset on this one: Frampton.

Cameron Dunkin, boxing manager
Leo Santa Cruz to beat Carl Frampton: I think Santa Cruz is too much for him. I think Santa Cruz will overwhelm him. I think (Frampton) will hit Santa Cruz a lot early. He’ll do well early but I think Santa Cruz will grind him down and win a decision or stop him late.

Norm Frauenheim, THE RING/
Leo Santa Cruz SD 12 Carl Frampton: Frampton is a versatile collection of elements, tangible and intangible, all adding up to a fighter who simply knows how to win. He possesses power and instinct. In his first bout at 126 pounds against Santa Cruz, however, he lacks a key dimension: Size. With a reach advantage of about seven inches, the taller Santa Cruz should be able to dictate distance and pace against Frampton, who figures to score early in a bout that Santa Cruz will win narrowly in the final rounds.

Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest/
Leo Santa Cruz UD 12 Carl Frampton: For some reason, this one seems like an easy prediction to make. Featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz is considerably bigger than the overrated Carl Frampton and his volume punching style should give the Irish “Jackal” fits in the ring. I don’t see a very competitive contest taking place at the Barclays in Brooklyn, New York on Showtime. Santa Cruz has all the right tools at his disposal to dominate Frampton, including a very long reach advantage. Look for “El Terremoto” to box conservatively early, gradually increase his punch output as the incoming from Frampton rapidly diminishes in effectiveness, and, by the championship rounds, be in complete control. Santa Cruz will retain his WBA 126-pound title by wide official scores. If there is to be a stoppage in this title bout, it will come late with Barry McGuigan overruling his fighter and his trainer/son Shane in the corner to order a compassionate halt to the mismatch.

Sean Gibbons, Zanfer matchmaker
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: I like Santa Cruz over my Irish brother, too tall, long and busy for Frampton. And Santa Cruz comes to rumble. Frampton seemed a little hesitant in his last fight.

Tom Gray,
Carl Frampton UD 12 Leo Santa Cruz: I like Carl Frampton in this fight because I believe he has superior skills and more sides to his game. The Belfast man knows just what to expect from Santa Cruz, a fast pace and volume punching, whereas Santa Cruz is likely to be surprised by Frampton’s versatility. Too much is being made of Santa Cruz being the bigger man here because if not for the Scott Quigg bout, Frampton would have made this jump a long time ago. I can see the Mexican walking into powerful counters and being shocked by Frampton’s intelligence and judgment of distance. Once this strategy begins to take a toll, Frampton will lead, picking his man off with sharp combinations and body punching. I like the challenger by comfortable decision.

David Greisman,
Leo Santa Cruz SD 12 Carl Frampton: Frampton will be rejuvenated from moving from 122 to 126 but Santa Cruz is in peak form right now and will work through tough moments to take a split decision.

Lee Groves,
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: Santa Cruz not only plays the numbers game better than just about everyone else; he hits the mark with incredible precision. Frampton simply won’t be able to stay with Santa Cruz in terms of pace and that will pave the way to either a lopsided decision or perhaps even a late-round TKO, if the attrition is severe enough.

Andreas Hale,
Leo Santa Cruz UD 12 Carl Frampton: The sheer volume that Santa Cruz brings into the ring is going to be hell for Carl Frampton to deal with. There will be opportunities for Frampton to stick and move but Santa Cruz’s conditioning will eventually wear Frampton down as the window to counter will become smaller and smaller over the course of the fight. I just can’t see Frampton convincing the judges that he’s the better man over the course of a 12-round fight.

Ricky Hatton, former two-division champion
Carl Frampton PTS 12 Leo Santa Cruz: It’s a 50/50 fight and, in my eyes, too close to call. I’d give the edge, if anything, to Frampton, as he boxed an intelligent fight against Scott Quigg, so I’m edging for Frampton to win on a close decision.

Sampson Lewkowicz, promoter
Leo Santa Cruz SD 12 Carl Frampton: My prediction is Santa Cruz by controversial split decision.

Ray Mancini, former lightweight titleholder
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: I like Frampton because he has a fan-friendly style. I saw some of the fight with Quigg. It wasn’t a great fight; it was OK. He came out on top. I like that Frampton is moving up to challenge himself to fight one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the game today in Leo Santa Cruz. I love Leo Santa Cruz; I love this kid because he’s action-packed. He reminds me of an old-school throwback. I just wish he would fight more but he’s with the PBC, so he’s got to wait his turn. I like Frampton but he’s going to have to fight the fight of his life to beat Leo Santa Cruz and he’s going to have to punch real hard and I don’t know if he’s got the punch to hurt or stop Leo Santa Cruz the way he needs to. I’m picking Leo Santa Cruz because, style-wise, he’s too strong for Frampton. I think Carl Frampton has enough heart and skill to go the distance. I think it’ll be a decision but if there is a stoppage, I think it’s Santa Cruz stopping Frampton.

Kiko Martinez, former IBF junior bantamweight titlist, who has fought both Santa Cruz and Frampton
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: It is a very tough fight for both of them but, in my opinion, Leo will win by points. The first six or eight rounds maybe can be even but Leo will win in the last rounds because he is physically too big for Frampton.

Sergio Mora, middleweight contender
Leo Santa Cruz UD 12 Carl Frampton: What a great matchup. Technical pressure fighter vs. beautiful boxer puncher. I can see Frampton winning ONLY if he can hurt Leo Santa Cruz. But I’m picking Leo Santa Cruz by close unanimous decision.

Diego Morilla,,,
Leo Santa Cruz UD 12 Carl Frampton: It looks like Frampton’s choices for this fight are very limited. A counterpunch-based approach would not work against a very active fighter like Santa Cruz and trying to outbox his foe from a distance would presumably not yield positive results as well. Frampton will have to rough Leo up for at least 10 rounds on the inside and maul him with an all-out attack for most of the fight and it is unlikely that he will be able to sustain that kind of rhythm against a fighter who will keep his distance and land accurately and often enough to keep him at bay. My bet is that Frampton won’t be able to close the gap effectively, just like he didn’t against (Alejandro) Gonzalez (Jr.), and we’ll see a not-so-easy but comfortable unanimous decision win for Santa Cruz over 12 rounds.

Marty Mulcahey,
Carl Frampton SD 12 Leo Santa Cruz: Despite Leo Santa Cruz’s recent positive trend, I am backing Carl Frampton mostly because, for the past couple years, I maintained Frampton has the style to trouble Santa Cruz, given his mix of aggression and movement. I do not think Santa Cruz will be able to land as consistently as he has with previous opponents, while Frampton crowds him and perhaps pushes Santa Cruz backwards which Santa Cruz is not accustomed to. Frampton’s use of angles and quick jab of his own should make Santa Cruz hesitate on combinations he usually employs to good effect. This one will come down to the final two rounds, where the stockier Frampton bulls forward to win a close split decision.

Scott Quigg, former WBA junior featherweight titlist
Leo Santa Cruz to beat Carl Frampton: I think that Santa Cruz will be too big and too busy for Frampton. I see Santa Cruz by unanimous decision or a late stoppage.

John J. Raspanti,,, Ringside Boxing Show
Leo Santa Cruz W 12 Carl Frampton: WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz has won 32 consecutive fights. Former super bantamweight champion Carl Frampton has engaged in 22 fights – winning them all. So who will remain undefeated on July 30? I’m going with Santa Cruz. His advantages in height and reach will immediately trouble Frampton. Frampton will likely try and box but Santa Cruz’s activity will be too much. I think Santa Cruz wins the battle of champions by unanimous decision.

Salvador Rodriguez, ESPN Deportes
Leo Santa Cruz TKO Carl Frampton: Leo Santa Cruz by stoppage in late rounds. The last time that I saw Frampton, he really suffered with Alejandro Gonzalez. He increased his level with Scott Quigg but the power, motivation and quality gives to “El Famoso Terremoto” a great victory in a great fight.

Cliff Rold,
Carl Frampton PTS 12 Leo Santa Cruz: This could go either way but I was impressed by Frampton’s poise against Quigg. He’s going to have countering opportunities, as Santa Cruz comes forward, that should slow the incoming. It will be enough to win a close fight.

Michael Rosenthal, THE RING magazine
Leo Santa Cruz UD 12 Carl Frampton: I like Frampton – I picked him to beat Scott Quigg – but I think moving up in weight to face a strong, swarming fighter like Leo Santa Cruz is an extremely difficult challenge. I suspect Frampton’s quickness and all-around ability will give Santa Cruz some trouble early but eventually he’ll wear down. Santa Cruz will win a unanimous decision.

Hugo Ruiz, WBC junior featherweight titleholder
Leo Santa Cruz TKO Carl Frampton: My prediction is Santa Cruz by TKO.

Lee Selby, IBF featherweight beltholder
Leo Santa Cruz PTS 12 Carl Frampton: I think it’s a 50/50 fight. Santa Cruz has a higher work rate. I think he has a seven-inch reach advantage and I think that might come into play. If Frampton can keep moving and keep his boxing up, he’s got a good chance of winning but sometimes late in a fight, he holds his feet. If he does that against Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz will capitalize on it and make him pay. I’m hoping Frampton can win but I’ve got a feeling Santa Cruz will nick it on points.

Dominic Verdin,
Leo Santa Cruz to stop Carl Frampton: Leo Santa Cruz is very much like a human windmill. Santa Cruz will stalk his opponent relentlessly and will not stop until you’re beaten to a pulp. Frampton is the smaller guy and likes to box from the outside. If Frampton wants to come out the victor, he will need to employ an inside game to his growing repertoire within the Sweet Science. Santa Cruz will simply be too much for the brave Irishman and Frampton will fail to answer the bell somewhere between rounds seven and eight in a spirited and grueling affair.

Final tally: 22-5 in favor of Leo Santa Cruz to win Saturday’s featherweight showdown against Carl Frampton.

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