Photo by PremierBoxingChampions
By Rich Mancuso
Leo Santa Cruz is in that fight mode and ready to defend his featherweight championship in a few weeks at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as part of a main event to be televised on Showtime Championship Boxing. He is in the final stages of training out in Los Angeles before heading to New York when he opposes Carl Frampton.
But there is more to Santa Cruz and Frampton fighting for a title. They are both undefeated and Frampton, 22-0, 14 KO’s, is not coming to New York as an Irish superstar to lose, Both are talented and boxing analyst describe Santa Cruz and Frampton as the elite fighters in a division that is getting more attention,
And because Santa Cruz and Frampton can punch and fight, this is a contest that is expected to get that attention. Boxing needs fights like this and the attention will be focused on the early rounds when they touch gloves in Brooklyn Saturday July 30th.
Santa Cruz knows what is ahead with Frampton.
‘He has great skills, great punches and he moves very well,” commented Santa Cruz, 32-0-18 KO’s from Los Angeles this week. “It’s going to be a tough fight for me but I’m going to work hard to defend my belt. I see Frampton as someone trying to come and take away everything I worked hard for. I can’t let that happen.”
And, as Santa Cruz says, he is going to do everything that has to be done to get that win. That means taking all the training of the past few months and bring it to the ring on fight night.
He is coming off a TKO win over Kiko Martinez, a fight until the stoppage that went back and forth at the Honda Center in Anaheim California. There the fans were all for the champion and, Santa Cruz had control from the beginning, and it was another contest that showed the featherweight division has a superstar.
However, with Frampton also having a following, and an expected New York crowd that will be in his corner, Santa Cruz is aware what he has to overcome. It is a part of boxing and doing what has to be done in order to overcome that adversity of fighting in front of fans that may want to see a new champion.
“I can’t let him come over to the U.S. and get this win,” he says, “we’re going to go out there and see if he can bring the best out of me. I’m going to be one hundred percent ready. He’s a very skilled fighter. He has great power and I think it’s going to be an exciting fight, These are the kind of guys I want to fight.”
He added: “It give me more motivation to get in the gym and train hard.”
Santa Cruz resides in Rosemead California and the Huetamo Michocan, Mexico native moved up in weight to get fights like this. It has been a successful journey for the 27-year old featherweight who has good reach and power. His father handed most of the training tasks to Leo’s brother, Antonio, which has not changed anything in the preparation to overtake Frampton and move on for more lucrative fights.
Jose, who has been in the corner of his son has been ill, so they stayed with the game plan and decided to not go outside and take someone else in. It is staying in the family and Antonio knows what has to be done.
“This camp feels very close to the same as usual,” said Antonio. “My father is usually the one who tells us what to do. I’m in the ring with Leo but he’s still there. He is sick but he is still going to the gym. He wants to be there for Leo.”
“Frampton is a good fighter. He’s going to give my brother a good fight. Short guys are tougher for Leo so we’re making sure we have sparring with fighters of all heights. Frampton won’t be hard to get inside but his height could pose a problem.”
Frampton at 5ft. 5 inches, does have a 64 percent ratio of finishing off opponents with his height differential.
“Little by little Antonio is learning,” said Jose, “and even I’m still learning. We’re both getting better as trainers and that is our goal to be great. I feel the love from my sons and I love them a lot too. I’m proud of them and I’m proud that they are my sons.”
So there is this communication for the champion, and family pride will be evident on fight night. The lome element to this fight is the possibility of something going wrong and Santa Cruz does not anticipate any problems.
“I think Frampton will keep his power up the weight classes,” commented Santa Cruz when asked about fight strategy and where his opponent ranks in the division. “He couldn’t make 122-pounds anymore and he’s said that he will be even more stronger this time. That’s good. That’s what I want. I want him to feel good so it’ll be a tough and entertaining fight.”
And with a win, Santa Cruz the WBA champion has more plans. Boxing, a sport with too many champions and can be confusing even with the experts, needs one champion and this division has that possibility as Gary Russell Jr. who holds the other titles could be on the horizon.
“I’m comfortable at 126-pounds,” said Santa Cruz. “I want to get this win against Carl Frampton and then unify against Gary, Lee Selby or any of the champions. When my body is ready we’ll move up in weight to seek another world title. “
“When I first started boxing all I ever thought about was being a world champion one time. The after I got there I started pushing my goals. If I continue to keep learning and improve as a fighter, I could go all the way to 140-pounds.”
It has been accomplished many times in the sport, and that journey continues in a few weeks for Leo Santa Cruz. He is fighting in New York for the first time and that is also an incentive because it is a city that has seen more that one future hall of famer.
“There are people that don’t know me and this is my opportunity to be impressive and put on a show for them,” he says.