Frampton rocks the Barclays Center
Outpoints Santa Cruz to Grab Featherweight Title in Epic Bout
It took Carl Frampton 23 professional wins without a loss and two world titles to become an overnight sensation right here in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.
The 29-year-old Belfast native lit up the Barclays Center Saturday night in a surefire “Fight of the Year” performance, counterpunching his way past Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA Featherweight World Championship in front of just over 9,000 awe-struck fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“It’s a dream come true,” said a weary Frampton after warding off the heavy-handed Santa Cruz to earn a narrow majority decision, 114-114, 116-112 and 117-111, and become the first-ever boxer from Northern Ireland to grab world titles in two weight classes.
“I had the dream of winning a world title and I won it, but I never thought I’d win in two divisions,” the former unified bantamweight champ, who is now in line to become a major headliner after proving his mettle against the world’s top featherweight.
“It was a tough fight, I wanted it to be a tough fight because I wanted a fight the people could remember.”
This one will be difficult to forget.
Santa Cruz (32-1-1) continually pounded Frampton, but received even more punishment in return as both brawlers squared off in the center of the ring and didn’t yield an inch in the hopes of maintaining their undefeated records.
The crowd, which was clearly with Frampton for most of the night, did sway back and forth with the action as Santa Cruz brought a hard-core Mexican-American following to the state-of-the-art arena.
“Distance control and hitting hard were the keys. I won the fight because I didn’t lose control,” Frampton boasted. “I earned his respect early in the fight with my distance control and hard punching.”
The judges rightfully saw the fight in Frampton’s favor, despite the defending champion’s unquestionable grit and determination to keep his belt.
“It was a tough fight from the beginning,” Santa Cruz admitted. “We knew it was going to be a tough fight, but I thought it was close when I was in there throwing. Maybe the judges were hearing the crowd and thought that every little punch was scoring.”
Though it would be a natural fit to see the two square off again here in Brooklyn next year, Frampton revealed that he has other plans.
I would love to take this man to Belfast for a rematch and show the people there what a great fighter he is,” Frampton said.
“It’s hard to get your first loss, but now we’ll go back to the gym, we’ll get the rematch and we’ll win,” added a defiant Santa Cruz. “And that loss will mean nothing. I want to have a rematch in Los Angeles, but I’ll go to Belfast too.”
No matter the venue, Frampton-Santa Cruz II figures to be a huge drawing card, especially since the epic first encounter was televised nationally on SHOWTIME.
“I want big, memorable fights,” Frampton bellowed in the squared circle before calling out both IFB featherweight titleholder Lee Selby and WBC champ Gary Russell Jr., both of whom attended Saturday’s fight, in the hopes of unifying his new crown.
On the undercard Saturday night, Bensonhurst native and Barclays Center favorite Paulie Malignaggi defended his mythical “Brooklyn World Championship” with a unanimous-decision victory over fellow borough native Gabriel Bracero.
“The Magic Man” (36-7), who won the belt by edging Brooklynite Zab Judah here on Pearl Harbor Day in 2013, out-boxed and out-foxed Bracero, his longtime friend and colleague, taking the bout by scores of 96-94, 98-92 and 98-92.
“I knew Bracero was a counter-puncher like myself,” Malignaggi said before reassuming his post as a SHOWTIME ring-side announcer for the main event. “I was just trying to be the sharper counter-puncher. We both try to set traps and I just wanted to make him earn any points that he got. At the same time, I felt like I had to earn my points. I dictated the fight with pot shots and stepping over.”
“I’m excited to call the fights tonight,” Malignaggi added before witnessing one of 2016’s best battles. “I’m a fan before I’m a fighter. I’m excited to go to work right now.”
For those who missed Saturday night’s fight, it is still available for viewing on SHOWTIME On Demand and SHOWTIME ANYTIME.
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