Pick a round, any round, from the Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton instant classic. We likely could’ve justified its inclusion on this list.
So why settle on Round 11 from the 126-pound title showdown on July 30 in Brooklyn, New York? Because in the stanza, both warriors fought through a level of exhaustion the common man couldn’t begin to comprehend and delivered the kind of sustained action normally seen in the opening three minutes, not the penultimate three minutes.
With the champion Leo Santa Cruz chipping away at a lead Carl Frampton had built up in the early rounds, each man knew that every punch mattered down the stretch. So each man dug deep in the 11th and pulled every tool out of their world-class toolboxes: stiff jabs to the nose, rib-rattling left hooks to the body, thudding overhand rights to the jaw.
They tagged each other with rapid, extended combinations from in close and from distance, leaving fans and ringside analysts in awe—and leaving the judges with the unenviable task of deciding who won a round that was as close as it was exhilarating.
In the end, two of the judges gave Round 11 to Frampton, while the third sided with Santa Cruz. All three may as well have just flipped a coin.
For a complete recap of Santa Cruz vs Frampton, and a look ahead to the January 28 rematch, visit our fight pages. And to view each of this year’s 12 Rounds of Christmas, head over to our video page.