Carl Frampton Prevails In Enjoyable Scrap With Leo Santa Cruz
Brooklyn’s bars should have been full as Saturday night made way for Sunday morning, and Brooklyn’s kegs should very well have been empty.
That’s because a sizable number of people were in that part of New York City to support Carl Frampton, and in turn Frampton had given them plenty to celebrate.
Frampton both boxed and brawled his way to a majority decision victory over Leo Santa Cruz, taking a world title at 126 pounds and adding that to the two in his collection he’d earned while competing at 122.
This was Frampton’s first fight in the featherweight division after several years as a junior featherweight. It was a bold move on his part to move up and immediately take on one of the top fighters in his new weight class. Santa Cruz had previously held titles at 118 and 122 before going up to 126 last year, winning a world title with a victory over Abner Mares.
But Frampton had a good idea of how to beat Santa Cruz and more than enough skill and ability to implement that plan.
“The game plan was distance control, but to hit him hard and make him get my respect from the start,” Frampton said. “I think I hurt him in the second round. Although he was throwing a lot of punches, he wasn’t throwing as much as he normally throws. I said that the whole time, once I nail him, the output wasn’t going to be as great. Distance control and punching hard, that was mainly the game plan, and fight when I had to fight.”
Frampton remained just far enough away early that Santa Cruz would have to come forward to attack, only for Frampton to move just out of range. Frampton was still close enough that he could move in with his own offense before getting away. He also tried to get the better of exchanges, something he did in the second round with a left hook that sent Santa Cruz staggering back to the ropes.
Santa Cruz did pick up his activity. He ended up throwing more than 1,000 punches on the night. He was able to close the distance and trade away, with Frampton willingly obliging, much to the thrill of those watching at Barclays Center and on television.
“I could’ve made it easier, but I fought with my heart sometimes rather than my head,” Frampton said.
He wasn’t more active than Santa Cruz, but he was more accurate. Santa Cruz was 255 of 1002 on the night, according to CompuBox, while Frampton was 242 of 668. Most of those landed punches were power shots: Santa Cruz was 191 of 551 in that category, while Frampton was 206 of 463.
It was a high-energy action fight, one in which the judges tended to favor Frampton’s actions. While one judge had it a draw at 114-114, or six rounds apiece, the other two judges had it 117-111 (nine rounds to three) and 116-112 (eight rounds to four). Frampton is now 23-0 with 14 knockouts and is having a great year, having defeated Scott Quigg in February in what was Frampton’s final fight at 122.
The talk immediately after the bout Saturday was about a rematch, as tends to be the case after an entertaining and competitive fight. That probably won’t come next, though. And when it does come, Frampton would love for it to be back in Northern Ireland so that his fans need not travel as far. He also could end up facing two of the other 126-pound titleholders, Gary Russell Jr. and Lee Selby.
Santa Cruz lost for the first time as a pro and is now 32-1-1 with 18 KOs. He doesn’t lose too much in defeat, though. It was a close fight that said more about how good Frampton is. Santa Cruz thought he did enough to win, but he also acknowledged that he needed to make strategic adjustments to have a better chance in the rematch. He’ll likely have a bounce-back fight before getting another shot against a name opponent.
Mikey Garcia Scores Four Knockdowns on Elio Rojas in TKO Win
The roar of the fans at Barclays Center showed that there were still those who remembered Mikey Garcia despite the two and a half years he had spent out of the ring while he tried to part with his promoter at the time.
Then Garcia gave those watching even more reason to cheer.
Garcia dispatched a game Elio Rojas, putting him down four times in five rounds for the technical knockout victory.
Rojas, a former 126-pound titleholder who was returning from his own extended layoff, was able to win the first two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards. What he wasn’t able to do, however, was take Garcia’s best shots.
Garcia dropped Rojas twice in the third round, each time with a right hand. Each time, Rojas got back up ready to trade, rather than trying to survive by holding on or moving away. Rojas didn’t have enough pop to stem Garcia’s attacks. Garcia had advantages in size and power. He added two more knockdowns in the fifth round. Again, Rojas beat the count, but the referee brought the fight to an end.
“The two-and-a-half-year layoff sparked a fire in me and motivated me to do the best that I could,” Garcia said afterward. “Elio is a tough guy and a former world champion. He didn’t come for a paycheck. He came to win. Elio took advantage of the opportunity. But we trained for a great performance like this, and I was thrilled to get the job done. It felt great to be here with a supportive crowd behind me. I’m looking forward to getting back in there and winning another world title.”
Garcia is now 35-0 with 29 KOs. While this fight took place within the junior welterweight limit, Garcia is setting his sights on lightweight. After winning titles at 126 and 130 before his time off, Garcia wants to add a belt at 135. The opponent foremost on his mind: British titleholder Terry Flanagan, who has the WBO belt, the same sanctioning body whose belts Garcia had at featherweight and junior lightweight.
Rojas is now 24-3 with 14 KOs. He plans to move down to 130, where he feels he can be more competitive against foes closer in size.
Adonis Stevenson Ends Thomas Williams’ Brave Stand in Four
The first few minutes of Adonis Stevenson’s fight with Thomas Williams Jr. made it seem as if the light heavyweight champion was going to put his opponent away quickly. The bout still didn’t last too much longer, but Williams extended it by making sure he wouldn’t go down to Stevenson without a fight.
He did indeed go down, however, losing in a fourth-round knockout.
Stevenson established himself in the opening round, landing counter left hand after counter left hand when Williams tried to jab. Then came a Stevenson jab that was followed by a left cross, which dropped Williams to the canvas. Williams rose at the count of nine and made it out of the round.
Yet the beginning of the second was more of what Williams faced in the first: one-two combinations from Stevenson, including one that left Williams temporarily shaken. Williams recovered, though, and soon adjusted. He disposed of the jab and came forward behind a high guard, getting closer than he’d been able to get before and landing more often because of that proximity.
Williams also has power. He’d put away Edwin Rodriguez in two rounds earlier this year, and he stood the proverbial puncher’s chance in this fight. Williams was gaining in confidence, and he was making Stevenson work harder for the win than he’d needed to in more than two years.
But if Williams thought he was turning the tide, Stevenson was looking for the big wave that was going to sink his challenger’s chances. That moment came in Round 4. Williams went for a left uppercut, only to get caught and dropped by Stevenson’s left cross.
Williams went down hard. He tried to get up. He didn’t make it to his feet in time.
Stevenson moved to 28-1 with 23 KOs after his most entertaining and competitive fight since May 2014, when he had to come from off the canvas to beat Andrzej Fonfara. There had been nothing but disappointingly overmatched opposition in his three appearances since then.
While the business and politics of boxing mean he’s still no closer to facing the other top 175-pounder in the world, Sergey Kovalev, there still are other options available for Stevenson, most notably undefeated contenders Eleider Alvarez (who won on the Stevenson-Williams undercard) and Artur Beterbiev.
Williams fell to 20-2 with 14 KOs, but he looked much better in this defeat than he did when he fell apart against Gabriel Campillo after suffering a cut over his eye in that fight two years ago. Williams had won three in a row to land this bout with Stevenson. This performance means he might not need to wait very long to be in another notable match.