Barry McGuigan confident Carl Frampton will bounce back to reclaim title
Barry McGuigan says he is “100 per cent confident’’ that Carl Frampton will win back the WBA featherweight title in a third clash with Leo Santa Cruz after the tricky Mexican outpointed the battling Belfast fighter over 12 rounds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
McGuigan accepted that his fighter had been uncharacteristically off the pace early on but said his camp ‘’won’t be making excuses’’ as Santa Cruz took a majority decision, one judge making the fight a 114-114 draw and the other two ringside officials siding with Santa Cruz on identical scorecards, 115-113.
Frampton’s uncertain start meant that the two-weight world champion from Tigers Bay had to abandon the counter-punching style that has served him so well and bring the fight to Santa Cruz.
“He lost a decision but he was incredible, he was courageous but he was just a little sluggish – he wasn’t as sharp as normal and that made the difference,” said Cyclone Promotions boss McGuigan.
“He was sluggish to begin with and because he was sluggish we were chasing. He had to become an attacking fighter and that’s not his best game.
“Carl is disappointed, but he shouldn’t be disappointed. He didn’t give himself an easy job when he started off the way he did but he pulled it back and look at the way he finished in the last round.
“We won’t start getting into making excuses – he didn’t win the fight. He had a woeful start but we’re 100 per cent confident that he’ll win the third fight.”
Santa Cruz confounded the critics who had labeled him as a limited, one-paced volume puncher who couldn’t use his reach. From the first bell there was a method and discipline about his work that wasn’t there in New York.
“We all said that couldn’t happen,” said McGuigan.
“It was a bad start, Santa Cruz started badly in the first fight and he fought back just like Carl did. It (the result) was razor-thin and we want him to do it again.
“Carl will have a rest but we want to organise it straight away and he wants to fight at Windsor. I mentioned Ravenhill, but he wants Windsor.
“The money is a factor but he wants to fight at home and there’s every bit as much money at home if we fill the place with 30,000 or 25,000 people.
“He’s had his last three fights away from home.
“He’d like the third fight because he knows he didn’t box very well, he let it slip away from him and I thought Santa Cruz won it by about two rounds.
“I was worried halfway through it that it was beginning to slip away from us but you have to be honest, everybody loses, it’s how you come back that matters.
“We want him to fight us again, we want him to fight us in Belfast. He said he would come to Belfast, he said he would be honourable, I think he is an honourable man…”
McGuigan rejected any suggestion of a link between his defeat to Steve Cruz in his Las Vegas debut back in 1986 and Frampton’s loss.
“It’s completely different,” he said.
“People said to me ‘oh don’t (take Frampton) to Manchester, you lost your last fight in Manchester but that’s a load of nonsense. Carl is an individual and he’s his own man.
“I’m no longer a fighter, but I feel the pain for him. He’s very close to me and this is sad for us because this is our first defeat and we’re winners.
“When you suffer you’re defeat you feel terrible and what do you say? Do you say ‘it’ll be alright?’ It won’t be alright, you’ve lost and it feels bad. It was Leo Santa Cruz’s night.”
Frampton had promised to send his fans home happy and, while that didn’t happen, they will certainly turn out for him again if Santa Cruz can be enticed to Belfast.
Late nights, lost wages and jet lag were forgotten as Frampton supporters, around half of the 10,085 crowd, made their voices heard and not just in the cavernous MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The sight and sound of a guy with a Northern Ireland flag draped around his shoulders roaring ‘There’s owneeee waaaaan Caaaaarrrl Fraaampton’ as he marched through the crowds between the New York New York casino and its next door neighbour the Excalibur set the tone for a raucous evening.
Mikey Garcia’s brutal right hook dethroned Dejan Zlaticanan, the fight pride of Montenegro, in the chief support leaving a little more time for ‘the Jackal Army’ to make their voices heard and somebody made the mistake of sticking ‘Sweet Caroline’ on just as Floyd Mayweather jnr came in.
Ignoring his dad, also at ringside, ‘Money’ made a beeline for a TV crew but he had to stall his interview because of the din in the cavernous arena.
Jimmy Lennon jnr struggled to be heard as he announced the fighters – Frampton’s fans just about shaded it, but the Mexican supporters gave their man a vociferous backing.
They were singing louder by the end though and their hero Santa Cruz deserves enormous credit for learning his lessons from the first fight and making the adjustments he needed to win the rematch.
The Frampton camp expected him to come to them but he was disciplined, patient and skilful.
His poise in the first couple of rounds surprised Frampton. The Belfast man went in as the champion and he fought like one early on – like someone who expected to win while Santa Cruz, the challenger, was a little sharper on the night.
Will there be another night? It certainly looks like there and it’s a mouthwatering prospect as they rivalry develops fight after fight.
However, it’s a long shot to expect Santa Cruz to come to Belfast.
From his point of view there’s surely too much risk and not enough money. Money talks loud in the fight game but hopefully honour will have its day and Windsor Park hosts the next episode of this riveting rivalry.