Santa Cruz, Garcia, Berchelt Win on Thrilling Night

Santa Cruz Wins Frampton Rematch By Majority Decision

The first fight between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz made fans want to see a rematch. The second fight between Frampton and Santa Cruz left fans longing for a third.

The fights were that good. And there’s still a score to settle. Frampton won the first fight and Santa Cruz’s world title by majority decision last July. Santa Cruz bounced back this past Saturday night, regaining his title with a majority decision victory for himself.

Leo v CarlPhoto Cred // ytimg

Santa Cruz got a different result by coming in with a different strategy. In their first fight, Santa Cruz’s usual activity — he threw more than 1,000 punches — was rendered less effective due to Frampton controlling the distance, moving out of range, coming back in with shots and getting the best of exchanges.

Santa Cruz still threw 884 punches in the rematch. But he wasn’t the relentless aggressor relying on volume.

“My head was telling me to go forward and pressure him, but my dad and corner were telling me to box him,” Santa Cruz said afterward. “That’s what I had to do. I always fight for the fans, but tonight I fought for myself, too.”

This time, it was Santa Cruz trying to control the distance and lessen Frampton’s opportunities. The fight still turned out close, and Frampton had his moments, but not enough to sway the judges, nor enough for Frampton to believe he deserved the victory.

One judge had it even at 114-114, or six rounds apiece, while the two other judges had it 115-113, giving Santa Cruz seven rounds and Frampton five.

“Sometimes I felt like the brawler was out-boxing the boxer,” Frampton said afterward. “He was very clever. He used his reach. I think he deserved it. It was a very good fight. I feel like I can perform better than that. No excuses. I had a brilliant training camp. The better man won tonight.

“I hope we can do it again,” he said. “We have to do it again.”

Santa Cruz moved to 33-1-1 with 18 KOs. He showed another dimension to his arsenal, something that wasn’t often seen — and wasn’t really needed — in previous years as he won titles at 118, 122 and 126.

Frampton is now 23-1 with 14 KOs. He’d recently been named Fighter of the Year for 2016 thanks to his title unification fight victory over Scott Quigg at junior featherweight and then his move up to featherweight, where he took on and defeated another top name in Santa Cruz.

He was up for the challenge last year. He’ll be in for a significant challenge trying to come out on top in a third fight with Santa Cruz, whenever it does come.


Mikey Garcia Knocks Dejan Zlaticanin Out Cold

Mikey Garcia spent two and a half years out of the ring. It took him just six months to regain a world title.

Garcia, a former 126- and 130-pound titleholder, won a world title at 135 pounds this past Saturday with a phenomenal third-round knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin.

Zlaticanin is a power-punching pressure fighter. He’d won decisions over Petr Petrov and current 140-pound titleholder Ricky Burns, plowed through Ivan Redkach and made short work of Franklin Mamani to win a vacant belt last year.

Garcia had no problem handling him.

Garcia pumped out his jab, keeping Zlaticanin at bay, remaining just out of range while still close enough to land what he wanted, when he could. He was patient, and he struck when the time was right.

That time came in the third, when Zlaticanin ducked his head down, came forward and threw a left hand. Garcia took a step back and dodged the shot. He threw a jab to measure distance and then turned his body into a great right uppercut. That punch left Zlaticanin far more shaken than the cuffing left hook that followed. The hook nevertheless pushed Zlaticanin forward to the ropes. Garcia stepped out of the way and suddenly was behind Zlaticanin.

His eyes were wide open, a hunter with a deer in his sights. Garcia loaded up with a right hand as Zlaticanin began to turn around. The right hand landed flush. Zlaticanin fell down hard and was unconscious for more than two minutes.

Tick. Tick. BOOM. @teammikeygarcia back & better than ever ?

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Garcia is now 36-0 with 30 KOs. He’d won a featherweight title from Orlando Salido back in 2013, then soon grew out of the division and moved up to junior lightweight, knocking out Roman Martinez later in the year for another belt. But after one defense in early 2014, Garcia stepped away from the sport due to a contractual dispute with his promoter.

He returned last July as a free agent, shaking off rust against Elio Rojas. He didn’t want to wait much longer. He wanted a shot at a title. Now that he has one around his waist, he wants more. Garcia said in a post-fight interview that he would like to unify with the other titleholders at 135, if possible, and then would like to move up to 140, perhaps by the end of 2017.

Zlaticanin (22-1, 15 KOs) suffered a big setback. There’s consolation in whom this loss came against. He came up short against Mikey Garcia. He should still see how he fares against the other top lightweights.


Miguel Berchelt Breaks Down Francisco Vargas, Stops Him in 11

The title reign of Francisco Vargas was fun while it lasted. That fun is probably why the reign didn’t last very long. Vargas dropped his world title this past Saturday night, losing after taking a beating from Miguel Berchelt for 11 rounds.

Vargas had made a habit of absorbing punishment while dishing it out. He’d traded knockdowns with Takashi Miura, coming back to score a technical knockout and winning the world title from Miura back in November 2015. He’d defended it with another classic brawl, a draw with Orlando Salido last June.

Vargas took the rest of last year off to recover. It didn’t do enough to help — not when he was returning against an opponent like Berchelt. Vargas found himself in another battle, and this time he was outgunned and overmatched.

As expected, Vargas came out firing in the first round. Berchelt was happy to oblige in that kind of fight and was able to land with regularity. Berchelt began to clobber Vargas with right hands and left hooks to the head, as well as shots to the body in the second, though Vargas turned the tide toward the end of the round, landing an overhand right that put Berchelt in retreat. Berchelt quickly steadied himself and began throwing back again.

A clash of heads in the fourth round opened a cut over Vargas’ left eye — in the same spot where scar tissue remained from a cut he’d suffered against Salido last year. Punches also brought swelling around Vargas’ right eye. Vargas fought through it, continuing to battle, but he was too often on the receiving end of clean, heavy shots.

A ringside physician checked on Vargas after the eighth. Blood began to pour once more from his eye in the ninth. The doctor looked at him again, allowing the fight to go on. The doctor did the same in the 10th as well. But Vargas was breaking down. Each combination Berchelt landed in Round 11 seemed to leave Vargas staggered, until finally the referee jumped in.

Berchelt landed 429 punches in total, including 336 power shots. That would be too much for most to take, never mind a fighter who had also been on the receiving end of 316 power shots against Salido and another 133 against Miura.

Vargas is now 23-1-2 with 17 KOs. He needs plenty of time off, plus a long conversation with his loved ones about whether he should keep on fighting.

Berchelt improved to 31-1 with 28 KOs. He’d suffered a surprising first-round loss back in 2014 but has since put together 10 straight victories. The Vargas fight was his first brush with a higher level of competition. It turned out to be one heck of a way for him to arrive.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2