Carl Frampton secured his legacy last night with a majority points decision win over Leo Santa Cruz in Brooklyn, capturing the WBA featherweight belt to become a two-weight world champion.
Frampton (23-0-KO14) unified the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight titles in February when he outpointed Scott Quigg, and has now replicated his WBA success in a second weight class – winning the same strap that his manager Barry McGuigan won in 1985.
Despite judge Guido Cavalleri scoring the bout 114-114, Frank Lombardi and Tom Schreck awarded the Northern Irishman the victory 116-112 and 117-111 respectively.
With this victory Frampton became his nation’s first ever two-weight world champion and has elevated himself to elite status, while surely becoming one of the leading contenders for fighter of the year honours.
This was no soft touch for Frampton’s first fight at featherweight, as he took on one of the most fearsome fighters in the lower weight classes. Santa Cruz (32-1-1-KO18), was taken aback early on, however, by a powerful barrage of punches from the shorter man.
Frampton continued to land the more telling punches, and although the Mexican came back into the contest in the middle rounds, Frampton was the more assured fighter from start to finish.
Not enough credit is given to Frampton for his victory over Quigg – many fans bemoaning Quigg as having lost the fight rather than Frampton winning it – but he has now arguably become Britain’s pound-for-pound best with this win.
His achievements are unparalleled in British boxing right now, while he is one of the most technically sound boxers in the world. There are not many smoother operators in the sport at this moment, while Frampton’s punches still have enough snap to keep aggressive fighters like Santa Cruz at bay.
Now his attention can turn towards a gigantic fight with IBF champion Lee Selby (23-1-KO8) or a stateside showdown with WBC holder Gary Russell Jr. (27-1-KO16).
Meanwhile on the undercard, the returning Mikey Garcia (35-0-KO29) confirmed that he was still one of the premier fighters in the world, stopping former world champion Elio Rojas (23-3-KO14) in the fifth round.
Garcia was fighting for the first time since January 2014 due to promotional issues, but still proved too much for his foe – who was knocked down five times.
Garcia, a former world champion at featherweight and super-featherweight, won this bout at 140lbs but has spoken of his desire to target world titles at lightweight – with WBO holder Terry Flanagan having been mentioned as a possible opponent.
On this evidence, and based on Garcia’s previous dominance, he is surely the biggest threat out there to the lightweight champions and his return sets up mouth-watering future clashes with Anthony Crolla, Jorge Linares and the aforementioned Flanagan.
On a night where we saw one boxer become great, we also witnessed a previously-established star pick up right where he left off to continue a terrific year of boxing.by