By Keith Idec
Carl Frampton feels Leo Santa Cruz is pursuing a rematch with Abner Mares over a rubber match against him because Santa Cruz thinks it’s an easier fight.
Santa Cruz has repeatedly stated that he’ll battle Mares again if they win their featherweight title fights Saturday night in Carson, California. The target date for the Santa Cruz-Mares rematch is sometime in March in Los Angeles, according to Richard Schaefer, whose company is co-promoting the FOX doubleheader that’ll feature Santa Cruz and Mares (7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT).
“He admitted in an interview that I’ve seen that Mares is an easier fight, so sometimes he says things that he probably shouldn’t,” Frampton told Sky Sports on Friday. “That’s probably the reason why.
“He’s had two very difficult fights with me. He beat me, I beat him. Both close fights, both good fights, both pretty intense fights, and I think that he probably feels that it’s an easier fight with Abner Mares.”
Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) defeated Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) by majority decision in their 12-round rematch January 28 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to win back the WBA “super” world featherweight title. Frampton beat Santa Cruz by majority decision in their first 12-round bout in July 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn to take the title from Santa Cruz.
The 29-year-old Santa Cruz also owns a majority-decision victory over Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs), his Mexican-American rival from Southern California. Santa Cruz beat Mares more convincingly than he later defeated Frampton in their August 2015 fight for the WBA “super” world featherweight title at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Northern Ireland’s Frampton still hopes to lure Santa Cruz to the United Kingdom, preferably his hometown of Belfast, for their rubber match. He isn’t opposed, however, to fighting Santa Cruz in the United States for the third time.
“I think there is more chance than ever of it happening in Belfast,” Frampton said. “But again, if I have to travel, then I’m up for that. I think with the new set-up I have at the minute [with new promoter Frank Warren], there’s more chance than there was say six months ago that it will happen this side of the water.”
However, Frampton added, “I loved it in America. That’s where everyone wants to be fighting. I love fighting at home. I do love fighting in Belfast, but I also have no objection to fighting in Las Vegas or New York again. I loved it both times.”
Frampton is scheduled to fight for the first time since losing to Santa Cruz on November 18 in Belfast. He’ll meet Mexico’s Horacio Garcia (33-3-1, 24 KOs) in a 10-rounder at SSE Arena.
On Saturday night, Frampton will pay close attention to the Santa Cruz and Mares fights.
Santa Cruz, of Rosemead, California, will encounter Chris Avalos (27-5, 20 KOs), of Lancaster, California, in the 12-round main event. In FOX’s co-featured fight, Mares, of Downey, California, will defend his WBA world featherweight championship against Mexico’s Andres Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs) in a 12-rounder.
Gutierrez was supposed to fight Frampton on July 29 in Belfast, but Gutierrez fell in the shower after their weigh-in July 28, sustained cuts to his chin and nose and damaged two of his teeth. Those injuries caused Gutierrez to pull out of their fight and the entire card was canceled.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.