Frampton hands Santa Cruz first loss, takes his title
NEW YORK — Carl Frampton unanimously outpointed previously undefeated champion Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday night to take the WBA super featherweight title.
Frampton, from Northern Ireland, improved to 23-0. Santa Cruz, from Mexico, dropped to 32-1-1.
“It's a dream come true,” Frampton said. “I had the dream of winning a world title and I won it. It was a tough fight. I wanted it to be a tough fight because I wanted a fight the people could remember.”
Judges Frank Lombardi and Tom Shreck gave him the fight with 116-112 and 117-111 scores. The third judge, Guido Cavalleri, had it 114-114.
At the end of the second round, both fighters received a sustained, roaring ovation from the crowd of 9,062 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Santa Cruz and Frampton took turns landing heavy shots in the round, and continued to alternate exchanges for the remainder of the fight.
Despite the ferociousness of the flurries, neither fighter was able to knock down the other.
“I had a good game plan, Frampton said. “I won it with my heart, not with my head and I got my hand raised. I won the fight because I didn't lose control. I earned his respect early in the fight with my distance control and hard punching.”
Almost immediately after the fight both Frampton and Santa Cruz spoke about rematch.
“We'll go back to the gym, we'll get the rematch and we'll win,” Santa Cruz said. “And that loss will mean nothing. I want to have a rematch in Los Angeles, but I'll go to Belfast, too.”
In order to land the fight with Santa Cruz, Frampton forfeited his IBF super bantamweight title in April.
“I never thought I'd win in two divisions,” Frampton said.
On the undercard, Mikey Garcia (35-0) dominated Elio Rojas (24-3) in a super lightweight bout, winning via technical knockout at 2:02 of the fifth round.
“We trained for a great performance like this and I was thrilled to get the job done,” Garcia said. “I'm looking forward to getting back in there and winning another world title.”
Garcia twice knocked Rojas down for standing eight counts in the third round, and dropped his rival again in the fourth and fifth before landing the decisive shot.
To open the main card, Tony Harrison knocked out Sergey Rabchenko with a right at 1:19 of the ninth round. He improved to 24-1 with 20 knockouts. The loss was the second in 29 fights for Rabchenko.
“I'm a finisher,” Harrison said. “I had him hurt and I said to (referee Arthur Mercante), `You better not let him go.' I knew I had him beat.”