Carl Frampton holds plenty of admiration for Leo Santa Cruz heading into their 126-pound title fight Saturday night. He also plans on holding the championship belt afterward.
The Northern Irishman has just one message for Santa Cruz entering their clash at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT): “I cannot lose.”
“I know all about Santa Cruz and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the kid can hit, but so can I,” Frampton said. “I’m not going to use daft words or describe him in anything other than respectful terms. That’s not my style.
“Things got a bit heated in my last fight against Scott Quigg because he was an idiot, but with Santa Cruz I will be perfectly professional in my dealings. He is a quality fighter, I respect him for that, but I’m better than he is. I’m telling you: I cannot lose.”
Carl Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) readily acknowledges that Leo Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) is the toughest fighter he has faced in his seven-year professional career, but the 29-year-old native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, has no doubt he will become a two-division champion after relinquishing his two 122-pound world titles to step up in weight.
“I’m going to be in this game for only maybe another five years, so in order to maximize what I get out of it financially, I have to keep looking after No. 1 and keep winning,” Frampton said. “I’d do this job for nothing, but now that I’m getting paid and putting bums on seats I want to make as much as I can, as quickly as I can.”
Frampton first became a 122-pound champion in September 2014 when he dethroned Kiko Martinez by unanimous decision in Belfast. Following two defenses of his crown, the 5-foot-5 Frampton then won a split decision over Quigg in Manchester, England, in February in a title unification bout.
Fighting before a sellout crowd of 21,000 at Manchester Arena, Frampton broke Quigg's jaw in Round 4 and controlled the majority of the fight. Still, judge Levi Martinez gave Quigg a 115-113 edge on his scorecard, while judges Carlos Sucre and Dave Parris both scored it 116-112 in favor of Frampton, who still can’t believe he didn’t gain a unanimous decision.
“Quigg barely laid a glove on me," Frampton said. "I’ve watched the fight again and to be honest, it was an easy fight. He couldn’t get near me as I was way too quick and slick for him. He tried banging me out toward the end, but I was never in any trouble.
“I suppose I could have gone for broke in the later rounds and tried to knock him out, but then I would have been putting the victory in danger when I didn’t need to. I knew I was a mile ahead on points.
“How one judge gave it to him will forever be a mystery. Nobody, absolutely nobody in the arena thought Quigg had won, apart from one person. It was a great night for my fans, but there is a lot more to come from me against Santa Cruz, who I rate a lot higher than Quigg.”
While Frampton is already a hero in the United Kingdom, “The Jackal” knows that a victory over Santa Cruz would raise his star in America, as well.
“I want to go where the action is, and the action in boxing is always in the United States,” Frampton said. “I’m ticking off all my wants. I’ve fought and won the world title in Belfast, I’ve defended it in front of a sellout crowd in Manchester and now I’m ready to go global.
“I’d absolutely love to see my name in lights in Las Vegas, and that will come—after I’ve beaten Santa Cruz.”
For a closer look at Santa Cruz vs Frampton, visit our fight page.