As he promised, Carl Frampton is making the move up to the hyper-competitive 126-pound division. And the undefeated former 122-pound champion is wasting no time diving into deep waters.
Five months after unifying and then relinquishing 122-pound world titles, Carl Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) will take on 126-pound champion Leo Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) on July 30 in a clash of undefeated fighters at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
While Frampton will be debuting at 126 pounds, Santa Cruz will be making the second defense of the world title he won August 29 when he defeated fellow Southern California Mexican-American Abner Mares by majority decision in an action-packed brawl. A former titleholder at 118 and 122 pounds, Santa Cruz followed the Mares victory with a fifth-round TKO of Kiko Martinez on February 27.
Earlier that same day in Manchester, England, Frampton won a split decision over Scott Quigg to simultaneously retain his 122-pound title and take Quigg’s crown. After the victory, the 29-year-old native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, suggested he might leave the titles behind to move up to 126, and he mentioned Santa Cruz as a desired opponent.
“I am in terrific shape, I feel fantastic in the gym and I am ready for the biggest fight of my career,” Frampton said. “I cannot wait to hear the crowd at Barclays Center. I know there will be a large number of fans traveling from the U.K. and Ireland, but there is also a huge Irish-American audience, and I am eager to show them all what I can do.”
Said Santa Cruz: “I’ve never been to New York before, and I’m looking forward to this big opportunity to put on a show for new fans in a new city. I always fight for the fans, and I’m excited to be able to do that somewhere I haven’t been before.”
“ When he gets caught with a good punch, he goes down. He doesn’t like pressure, and I have that. ” 126-pound world champion Leo Santa Cruz, on upcoming opponent Carl Frampton
Santa Cruz has only fought east of the Mississippi twice—in York, Pennsylvania, in March 2009 and in Cockeysville, Maryland, in October 2010. Of his last 13 fights, 12 have taken place either in his home state of California or at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the only exception being a 122-pound title defense against Cesar Seda in San Antonio in December 2013.
Ironically, Frampton’s only fight outside of the U.K. also took place in Texas, where he rose from a pair of first-round knockdowns to defeat Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. by unanimous decision last July in El Paso in his last fight before defeating Quigg.
Those two knockdowns got the attention of Santa Cruz, who believes his power and pressure will be too much for his Irish foe.
“Frampton is a good fighter. He has power and skills, and he moves when he has to, but he has a weak chin,” he said. “When he gets caught with a good punch, he goes down. He doesn’t like pressure, and I have that.”
Frampton, who at 5-foot-5 will be giving up 2½ inches to Santa Cruz, sees things unfolding quite differently.
“I respect Leo Santa Cruz—he is a great fighter and person. But I am preparing meticulously to overcome any challenge he brings," Frampton said. "On July 30, I will become a two-weight world champion."
For a complete look at Santa Cruz vs Frampton, visit our fight page.