Carl Frampton watched from a ringside seat Saturday night in Las Vegas as Leo Santa Cruz comfortably beat Miguel Flores to become a four-weight world champion.
Frampton wasn’t overly impressed by Santa Cruz’s unremarkable performance in his 130-pound debut. The former featherweight and super bantamweight champion thinks Santa Cruz’s forgettable fight was more a reflection, however, of Flores’ reluctance to engage his heavily favored foe in their 12-round title fight on the Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz undercard.
While watching Santa Cruz’s fight, Frampton couldn’t help but wonder how he would’ve fared against his rival had he been granted the third fight he has repeatedly requested.
Santa Cruz edged Frampton by majority decision in that same MGM Grand Garden Arena ring nearly three years ago to avenge a majority-decision defeat to Frampton six months earlier at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Frampton essentially has “given up hope,” though, that Santa Cruz will ever give him the third fight Frampton has sought since Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) won their 12-round rematch.
“They just don’t seem interested,” Frampton told BoxingScene.com. “They haven’t seemed interested since he won the second fight. They know I’m willing to travel to L.A. to fight him in a trilogy, in the rubber match. But I just don’t think that fight is ever gonna happen. So, I’m focused on these other champions that Top Rank has at the minute – like Jamel Herring, like Oscar Valdez, like Shakur Stevenson.”
Northern Ireland’s Frampton is keeping his options open by boxing this Saturday night at a contracted catch weight of 128 pounds. That’s halfway between the featherweight limit of 126 pounds, at which Stevenson owns the WBO title, and the junior lightweight maximum of 130 pounds, at which Herring holds the WBO belt.
To secure one of those fights, Frampton (26-2, 15 KOs) must defeat Tyler McCreary (16-0-1, 7 KOs) in a 10-round encounter ESPN+ will stream from The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The Frampton-McCreary match will immediately precede Valdez’s junior lightweight debut, a 10-rounder versus fellow Mexican Andres Gutierrez.
The 32-year-old Frampton much rather would’ve faced Santa Cruz this month in Las Vegas to settle their score.
Leaving Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions for co-promoters Frank Warren and Bob Arum obviously hurt Frampton’s chances of boxing Santa Cruz a third time. Regardless, a third bout between them would’ve been much more appealing to fans than Santa Cruz-Flores and Frampton-McCreary.
“I still don’t understand why the third fight hasn’t happened,” said Frampton, the only opponent who has beaten Santa Cruz since he turned pro. “They were two good fights. The fight that I won was a brilliant fight, and very close. The fight that he won was a brilliant fight, and very close as well. And I really don’t understand why it hasn’t happened. I’ve kind of almost given up hope that it ever will.”
One fight Frampton is completely convinced won’t ever happen is Santa Cruz-Gervonta Davis. Santa Cruz continued to state after defeating Flores (24-3, 12 KOs) that he wants to battle the Baltimore-based knockout artist in 2020, but Frampton doesn’t believe him.
“That’s another fight that I don’t think happens,” Frampton said. “Leo’s been mentioning these big names pretty much his whole career, but the huge fights never really materialized. If you actually look through his record, he’s a four-weight world champion. He can call himself that now, but he fought Miguel Flores. He was another featherweight moving up for a 130-pound title. [Santa Cruz has] been looked after very well. Would they put him in with Gervonta Davis? Absolutely not a chance in hell. And I think if they did, Gervonta Davis takes him out inside of four rounds.”
Unlike a third Santa Cruz-Frampton fight, Santa Cruz-Davis should be relatively easy to put together because both boxers are advised by Haymon and fight on networks, FOX and Showtime, with which Haymon has contracts.
Davis (22-0, 21 KOs) moved up to lightweight recently, which afforded Santa Cruz the opportunity to win the then-unclaimed WBA 130-pound championship Davis vacated when he exited that division. Santa Cruz contends that he, too, would jump up to lightweight to get a shot at Davis.
Davis said that he still can make 130 pounds while talking to reporters recently to promote his lightweight debut against Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-2, 18 KOs) on December 28 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. He would be willing to do that, according to Davis, to fight Santa Cruz.
“I want the big fights,” Santa Cruz said during the post-fight press conference Saturday night. “I want to be one of the best. I want to be ranked on the pound-for-pound, in the top 10. And I know doing that, I have to fight Gary Russell or Gervonta Davis, and those are the fights that I want in 2020. … I’ll fight whoever my team, my promoters, they put me against, I’ll fight against them. But, you know, I wanna prove myself. I wanna show the world that I’m not scared of nobody. They say that I’m avoiding Gary Russell. And, you know, I think Gervonta Davis is a dangerous fighter. And what other fighter can I go out there and challenge to prove to people that I’m not scared of nobody, and I’m willing to fight the best?”
Frampton dismissed Santa Cruz’s claim that he wants to face Davis.
“Well, he’s been saying for two years that he wants to fight me, and it hasn’t happened,” Frampton said. “I don’t know why he’s saying [he wants to fight Davis.] I just genuinely do not see that fight happening.”
Frampton feels that the other showdown Santa Cruz consistently mentions – the bout versus Russell – has an actual chance of occurring. That’s a fight Frampton figures Santa Cruz could win, though that, too, would be a daunting assignment because the left-handed Russell (30-1, 18 KOs) has such fast hands and is so skillful.
“I think that the Gary Russell fight potentially could happen, and I think that he has a better chance against Gary Russell [than against Davis],” Frampton said. “Gary Russell has more skills. He’s a better fighter than [Santa Cruz]. But with Leo’s work ethic and toughness and resilience, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could beat Gary Russell. It’s a very difficult fight, but I just don’t see the Gervonta Davis fight happening at all.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.