Showtime boxing results: Santa Cruz gets revenge on Frampton with majority decision
Leo Santa Cruz got his belt back and called for a third showdown with Carl Frampton
Former three-division champion Leo Santa Cruz avenged a first career defeat handed to him last summer by Carl Frampton, winning a majority decision in a rematch that allowed him to regain the WBA featherweight title he'd lost to the Northern Irishman.
The California-based Mexican earned the win by scores of 115-113 on the cards of judges Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman, while a third judge, Burt Clements, saw it even at 114-114.
CBS Sports saw it slightly wider, 116-112, in Santa Cruz's favor.
Both fighters agreed with the decision and both endorsed the idea of a third fight.
"I said I wanted revenge," said Santa Cruz, who abandoned his pressuring style in favor of a more deliberate style in which he allowed Frampton to come forward and waited for counterpunching opportunities. "I know how to use my distance and everything. I had to do what I needed to win the fight. I boxed. If I would have went in, he would have counterpunched me all night."
Indeed, Frampton won the initial fight in July by controlling the distance and picking Santa Cruz apart as he lunged to land big shots. Santa Cruz was dramatically different from the first round on Saturday, instead relying on a busy and accurate jab that landed and offset Frampton's offense.
"It was very tough (to change my style)," Santa Cruz said. "My head was telling me to go forward. My corner was telling me to box. That's what I did."
As for a third match, Santa Cruz said, "Of course, I would be happy to give him the third fight."
Frampton acknowledged Santa Cruz deserved the decision and referred to him as "the better man tonight."
"He told me what he was going to do," Frampton said. "I felt like the brawler was outboxing the boxer. He was very clever. He used his reach. It was a very good fight, but I feel like I can perform slightly better.
"We have to do it again. He said the third time he'd come to Belfast. I hope he does."
In the final prelim before the main event, unbeaten Mikey Garcia made a convincing return to the big time with a third-round TKO of Dejan Zlaticanin to earn the WBC lightweight title.
Now 29-years old, Garcia was a world champion at 126 and 130 pounds as recently as January 2014 before a long stretch of injuries and promotional issues limited him to just one appearance - last July in Brooklyn - in the intervening 36 months.
"I was always in shape," he said. "The layoff allowed me to reignite that fire, that passion."
Zlaticanin was making the first defense of the crown he'd won last June in Verona, New York and had been the lone world champion from the small southeastern European country of Montenegro.
He pressed forward from the opening bell from a southpaw stance, but was never able to consistently get inside of Garcia's busy and accurate left jab.
He was stopped in his tracks by straight right hands a few times in the initial two rounds, then was hurt badly by a right uppercut in a neutral corner in the final minute of Round 3.
Zlaticanin reeled into the ropes after taking the shot, missed a chance to grab onto Garcia and was drilled with a follow-up overhand right that sent him to the canvas flat on his back. Referee Tony Weeks came over to begin the count, but immediately waved off the fight upon seeing Zlaticanin's condition.
The now-ex-champion remained down for several minutes before finally rising to sit on his stool and ultimately getting to his feet to speak to Garcia.
"I think it was a great performance," Garcia said. "I fought smart. I kept the distance and controlled the range. We were able to connect, hurt him and put an end to the night. He kept coming in. I saw an opening for the uppercut. He was there. When he turned back to me I knew he was hurt, so I went for the overhand right. That right was the one that finished him. Perfect time. Perfect distance."
Garcia, now 5-0 in championship fights and 36-0 overall, immediately called for bouts with the other title claimants at 135 pounds.
"I'm available for any of the other champions," he said. "If we can get the organizations to unify the lightweight division. Then maybe we can go to 140 and do the same thing."
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