Carl Frampton admires Leo Santa Cruz’s ambition.

Santa Cruz’s former featherweight rival still doesn’t think Santa Cruz has any shot at beating Gervonta Davis. Frampton fully expects Davis to overwhelm Santa Cruz when the strong southpaw from Baltimore and the four-division champion meet October 24 in a Showtime Pay-Per-View main event tentatively set to take place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Beyond Davis’ vaunted power, Frampton didn’t like what he saw from Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) in the Rosemead, California, native’s debut at the 130-pound limit. Santa Cruz comfortably beat Houston’s Miguel Flores (24-2, 12 KOs) on the scorecards in their 12-rounder November 23 in Las Vegas, yet Frampton didn’t see the same ferocious fighter with whom Frampton split a pair of featherweight championship matches.

“I seen Leo in his last fight in Vegas against Flores, and he looked, to me, like a shell of himself, really,” Frampton told BoxingScene.com. “I was not impressed with him. He wasn’t throwing as much punches as he normally throws. He wasn’t being as aggressive. He was falling short a lot of the time, against a mediocre opponent, really. I just can’t see a way that he beats Gervonta Davis.”

Frampton’s focus primarily is on his own 130-pound title fight later this year.

If the Belfast-based Frampton (27-2, 15 KOs) defeats Scotland’s Darren Traynor (16-3, 7 KOs), a late replacement for Vahram Vardanyan, on Saturday night in London, he’ll expect to challenge WBO junior lightweight champ Jamel Herring next. Frampton-Herring also is dependent upon Herring (21-2, 10 KOs), of Coram, New York, topping Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (31-6, 19 KOs) in an optional title defense September 5 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

Frampton figures to be deep into camp for the Herring fight when Davis-Santa Cruz takes place, but he’ll watch to see if Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) can join him as the only opponents to beat Santa Cruz. Frampton, who edged Santa Cruz by unanimous decision in July 2016 and lost their rematch by majority decision in January 2017, credited Santa Cruz for taking such a difficult fight, though.

“I think the thing with Leo is he’s a brilliant guy, and he will fight anybody, whoever his team wants to put in front of him,” Frampton said. “For whatever reason, his team didn’t want him to fight me again in the trilogy fight. I think they just wanted to keep it all in house, and have him fighting their own fighters. But you have to admire his balls because not a lot of people think he has a chance against Gervonta Davis. I don’t. If I’m being honest, I think Gervonta Davis wins the fight. But credit to Leo. I’m sure he’ll make a lot of money in the fight, but it’s gonna be a tough ask.”

ESPN will televise Frampton-Traynor as the main event of a two-bout broadcast from BT Sport’s Studio in London (4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT). Frampton’s fight also will headline BT Sport’s live telecast in the United Kingdom (7 p.m. BST).

Irish junior featherweight contender Michael Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) also is scheduled to face France’s Sofiane Takoucht (35-4-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-rounder that’ll open ESPN’s show. 

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.