This Saturday night on Showtime Extreme (7 pm ET) and Showtime (9 pm ET) we’ll have five fights from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, including a big featherweight title bout between WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz and former 122-pound titleholder Carl Frampton.
Here’s a look at the full card.
Leo Santa Cruz vs Carl Frampton
Leo Santa Cruz
Record: 32-0-1 (18 KO) ... Streak: W31 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7½" / 69" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: There are few top level fighters in the sport as exciting to watch as Leo Santa Cruz. He’s a guy I was high on before he started really making waves back in 2012, when his career moved to the U.S. full time for a bantamweight title win over Vusi Malinga.
Now 27, Santa Cruz is a three-division champion. But what does that really mean in this modern boxing world of paper titles and empty reigns? Let’s look over what he did in each division in world title fights.
- 2012-06-02, def. Vusi Malinga (UD-12) to win vacant IBF title
- 2012-09-15, def. Eric Morel (RTD-5)
- 2012-11-10, def. Victor Zaleta (TKO-9)
- 2012-12-15, def. Alberto Guevara (UD-12)
- 2013-08-24, def. Victor Terrazas (KO-3) to win WBC title
- 2013-12-14, def. Cesar Seda (UD-12)
- 2014-03-08, def. Cristian Mijares (UD-12)
- 2014-09-13, def. Manuel Roman (TKO-2)
- 2015-01-17, def. Jesus Ruiz (TKO-8)
- 2015-08-29, def. Abner Mares (MD-12) to win WBA title
- 2016-02-27, def. Kiko Martinez (TKO-5)
The two best wins in these 11 world title fights are arguably his last two, over Mares and Martinez. The run at 122 was disappointing, particularly toward the end when he was matched against complete non-contenders Roman and Ruiz, two fights that took a rightful beating from fans and media. They were awful matchups and a waste of Santa Cruz’s talent.
But Santa Cruz is very, very, very much a "let my team decide who I fight" guy. He really doesn’t care, but at least he never takes anyone lightly. The only time he’s looked at all sluggish came in that Decemer 2012 fight with Guevara, which was understandable given he’d fought three world title fights in the prior five months.
Santa Cruz is not a big puncher, but his volume can be downright overwhelming. Kiko Martinez -- twice a loser to Frampton, too — gave a great effort in February and did the best job he could at landing while Santa Cruz was throwing, hoping to catch him with a big shot, but he was dropped int he first round and finished standing in the fifth, having lost the entire fight.
Really, though, he’s largely dominated his opposition. He’s tough, takes a good shot, and throws a million punches, never really taking his foot off the gas. He’s got great stamina and a ton of heart. Santa Cruz’s opponents have been criticized, as has his willingness to be totally led around by his team, but it is what it is. He always comes prepared and ready to throw down, and generally he provides an exciting night.
Record: 22-0 (14 KO) ... Streak: W22 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5" / 62" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever been less impressed by Frampton than I was when he beat Scott Quigg earlier this year. That was the biggest, best win of his career, but it was such a flat performance that largely came because Scott Quigg took about eight rounds to wake up and actually start fighting. The rounds Quigg won were clear. The rounds Frampton won were clear, but mostly because Quigg did nothing.
It’s a weird fight to look back on, and the way it played out made this fight way more intriguing, really. Leo Santa Cruz does not take rounds off. He is 100 mph, all the time (about 160 km/h for you diabolical foreigners with your sensical "metric system). Frampton has said he has to be better to win this fight. And he’s 100 percent right. He absolutely has to be better than he was against Quigg if he’s going to beat Leo Santa Cruz.
There’s also the question of Frampton moving up in weight. Some guys just aren’t meant to move up. With short arms on a small frame, Frampton may struggle to make 122 now, but that also may mean his time as a top fighter is ticking away. Leo Santa Cruz has the body to carry 126 well, and has proven he can do so. Frampton might not make the adjustment as well, plus he’s jumping right into the fire.
Frampton can win this fight, because he’s a really good fighter. But the on-paper advantages largely swing toward Santa Cruz’s side. Santa Cruz is taller and longer, and has three fights at this weight where he’s proven he can handle it just fine. Frampton is a bit of a question mark here, but that’s not a bad thing.
Matchup Grade: A-. This is a true main event, the type of fight we all wish we’d see more often. The nice thing is we’ve had some interesting fights like this lately — Thurman-Porter, Crawford-Postol, and now this one. Actual top fighters taking the gamble against one another. This fight is compelling and tough to pick. It’s a winner on paper.
Mikey Garcia vs Elio Rojas
Record: 34-0 (28 KO) ... Streak: W34 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’7" / 68" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Mikey Garcia won his first world title three and a half years ago, beating Orlando Salido by wide technical decision in a fight where he’d put the veteran tough man down four times in the first four rounds. He lost that belt on the scales ahead of his first defense, but still smashed Juan Manuel Lopez in four rounds, then moved up to knock out Rocky Martinez to win a 130-pound title, which he defended once against Juan Carlos Burgos.
And then, just as Garcia was starting to get serious "pound for pound" talk, his career all but vanished. A promotional dispute with Top Rank kept him on the shelf for three and a half years, but now he’s with Al Haymon and the PBC team, and he’s back in business.
It’s worth noting that were long whispers about Garcia’s true dedication to boxing, whether or not he really wanted to do it, or if it was just something he happened to be really good at, along with having family roots in the ring. In that respect, the length of the layoff was not a big surprise. Some fighters might have sat for 9-12 months and then had such an itch to fight that they would have found some way to work out the disagreements and get back in the ring, even if they hated their promoter. Mikey Garcia, though, seems totally comfortable with the fact that he got to take a long break from the sport and spend time with his family.
That’s not a bad thing, at least in and of itself — in fact, it’s kind of a great thing, isn’t it? But it keeps the question of Garcia’s hunger for a fight in play. What if he’s just not the same guy anymore? He’s only 29, but 30 months is a very long layoff for anyone. This fight may not provide and concrete answers to that, unless he suffers a big upset loss, and by the time he faces someone truly dangerous, he could be totally back in the swing of things. The good news for Mikey Garcia and Garcia fans is that he’s got a tremendous amount of talent and skill, and plenty of good years ahead of him. If nothing else, it is good to see him back in the ring.
Record: 24-2 (14 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 70" ... Age: 33
Thoughts: Elio Rojas is a former featherweight titleholder. That’s the good news. Elio Rojas is 33 and hasn’t fought in two years, and has fought just once in the last four years. That’s the bad news.
At his peak, Rojas beat Takahiro Ao at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo to win the WBC featherweight title in July 2009 -- seven years and two weeks ago. He defended successfully against Guty Espadas Jr in 2010, and then wound up stripped of the belt later that year, officially due to injury. He got a shot at Jhonny Gonzalez in 2012, and was beaten over 12 rounds, which was his last notable fight.
At his best, Rojas was a pretty good fighter, but not a Mikey Garcia. And even though Garcia’s had an even longer layoff by seven months, Rojas still hasn’t fought in just under two years, and hasn’t faced anyone good in over four. If anyone felt he could actually beat Mikey Garcia, this fight wouldn’t be happening, quite honestly.
Matchup Grade: C-. I mean, you know. There is a way to spin this as a good fight, but the fight is here mostly to showcase the returning Mikey Garcia. It’s fair enough that he’s fighting another guy who hasn’t been in the ring in a while, and Rojas was a quality fighter at his best, but there is no version of Rojas I would have picked to really compete with, let alone beat, any version of Mikey Garcia I have ever seen.
Tony Harrison vs Sergey Rabchenko
Record: 23-1 (19 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’1" / 76½" ... Age: 25
Thoughts: The latest in a long line of exciting Kronk fighters with big power and a lot of confidence, Detroit’s Tony Harrison is also about as nice a guy as you could ever want to talk to in the boxing world. He talks a big game, but he also cares deeply about his community, and wants to put Detroit back on the boxing map. There’s a real sincerity to that.
As a fighter, there are still a lot of questions, and Harrison certainly knows that, and knows that the questions are being asked because of mistakes he made in the ring a year ago against Willie Nelson, when he was well ahead in the fight and then stopped in the ninth round, running out of gas and getting caught. The fight had all of three minutes and three seconds left to go, and he got caught.
It happens. His team are aware of that. He’s aware of that. And with two wins over Cecil McCalla and Fernando Guerrero to get him back to his winning ways, it’s now time to try that step up again. This is a fight on a similar level to the one against Nelson, against a guy who can beat him, and will take advantage of mistakes.
There was a sort of tepidness to Harrison’s performance last Halloween against McCalla, as he won a 10-round decision, but it was understandable. He was three and a half months removed from his first pro loss, and seemed to want to go out there, fight smart, and get his confidence back. He was more the "normal" Tony Harrison in March, when he smashed Guerrero in six rounds.
What Tony Harrison do we get here? That’s the question. If it’s the flashy Harrison, he could do big damage and win impressively, or get clipped and find himself on the losing end once again. If it’s the safe Harrison, he could box his way to a decision, or find himself out of his natural element against a fighter better than McCalla.
Record: 27-1 (20 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'10" / N/A ... Age: 30
Thoughts: Rabchenko, a Belarusian vetearn, is no easy opponent for Harrison. He’s absolutely good enough to win this fight, and this is a big opportunity for him. His career has been guided mostly by Hatton Promotions as basically their star fighter, to the degree Hatton Promotions has a star fighter, anyway, and this will be his U.S. debut.
Rabchenko turned pro in 2006, fighting his first eight fights in Belarus, then Ukraine, Belarus, France, Belarus, Czech Republic, Belarus (2), and then he made the career move to the United Kingdom, beating Martin Concepcion and Bradley Pryce in 2011, leading up to a good win over Ryan Rhodes to claim the European 154-pound title in 2012. He defended successfully against Cedric Vitu, Adriano Nicchi, and Pryce once again, before heading to Australia in November 2014 to face Anthony Mundine.
That fight was always a calculated risk. Mundine had seven months earlier been beaten thoroughly by Joshua Clottey, but home field advantage was still in his favor, and it wound up mattering. Mundine got a split decision win (115-113, 116-112, 113-115) in a fight that really could have gone either way. A rematch was ordered by the WBC, but never took place.
The most troubling thing for Rabchenko going into this fight is that Mundine was his last credible opponent He fought once in 2015, beating a club fighter in Bulgaria, and then on February 19, beating an 11-22 fighter in the United Kingdom. Is he really ready for a fight of this caliber?
Matchup Grade: B-. On paper, I like this one. A confident Harrison is an exciting fighter, and has skills and power, but he’s beatable, in part because of that confidence occasionally getting the better of him. If he goes hard early and doesn’t get Rabchenko out, he could find himself in trouble as the fight wears on. But we have to see what kind of fighting shape Rabchenko is in, too, after a year and a half with two fights against weak opponents. This B- could wind up a couple grades too high, or maybe one too low.
Paulie Malignaggi vs Gabriel Bracero
Record: 35-7 (7 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 7-3 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8" / 70" ... Age: 35
Thoughts: Malignaggi still fights regularly at 35, but he’s in a sort of semi-retired state, too. His main gig is commentary for Showtime, where he does a fine job. He fought three times last year, between August and December, losing to Danny Garcia by TKO, and then going to Italy to beat Laszlo Fazekas, and then the United Kingdom to beat Antonio Mosciatello. He was clearly better than both of those guys, which was not a surprise. Even an aging, half-in/half-out Malignaggi can cruise over that level of competition still.
Malignaggi has had a weird last five years overall. In 2011, he beat Jose Miguel Cotto and Orlando Lora, decent wins, and then in 2012 went to Ukraine and didn’t just beat Vyacheslav Senchenko, he beat the brakes off him to claim the WBA welterweight title by ninth round TKO. He followed that with a debatable win over Pablo Cesar Cano, then after that had a debated loss to Adrien Broner.
Since then he’s beaten Zab Judah in fairly dominant fashion, and then he was trucked by Shawn Porter and Garcia, before winning his last two. He’s still an intelligent fighter, but his physical skills have started to decline (which is perfectly normal), and he’s not quite as slick as he once was, which is what got him into real trouble with Porter and Garcia. He doesn’t react as quickly as he once did.
This fight almost feels like Malignaggi doing the promotion a favor, taking a fight on SHO Extreme to help bring in some fans for the show in his hometown. But I don’t expect him to take it lightly at all. Paulie is and always has been a very proud fighter. He’l admit defeat when he’s beaten, and he’s always been inconsistent, but you always feel like he’s trying with everything he has on a particular night.
Record: 24-2 (5 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’7½" / 68½" ... Age: 35
Thoughts: Can you think of a fight less appealing on paper than Malignaggi against a guy with five knockouts in 24 wins? Hopefully the fact that it’s a Battle of Brooklyn in Brooklyn will give the fight some extra juice.
Bracero isn’t exactly punchless, though. I mean, he’s definitely not a puncher, but we did see him knock Danny O’Connor smooth out last October in Lowell, Massachusetts, a rematch of the 2011 fight where Bracero beat O’Connor and took his undefeated record. Bracero was once thought to be a prospect, of some degree, anyway, but it’s never quite worked out for him. His best wins are the two over O’Connor and one over Dmitry Salita in 2013, and Salita has enjoyed one of the most padded records in recent memory.
Basically, Bracero is what he is. He’s a solid journeyman fighter without the journeyman record at a glance. 24-2 sounds good, but it’s pretty empty.
Matchup Grade: C. As an undercard fight, this one has merits. Both fighters are Brooklyn natives and will (hopefully) help pad the house, which features no other local products on the main card. And hopefully that also means there will be some decent atmosphere and energy, too. Neither of these guys are serious contenders at 147, nor are they going to be, but for a local attraction, it’s fine.
Ivan Redkach vs Tevin Farmer
Record: 19-1-1 (15 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 3-1-1 ... Last 10: 7-1-1 (1 NC) ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5’9½" / 71" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: It wasn’t too long ago that Redkach, born in Ukraine and now living in Los Angeles, was hailed as a potential contender in the lightweight division. The plan to get him into contention has pretty much fallen apart over his last three fights.
Last June, he was trounced by Dejan Zlaticanin, stopped in the fourth round in Alabama. A win there likely would have propelled him into a world title opportunity, as Zlaticanin, now the WBC champ, was able to do himself. A win over Erick Daniel Martinez in October shook a bit of the doubt, but on April 19 of this year, he went to a 10 round draw with Luis Cruz on FS1. Cruz had lost four of his previous seven bouts, and those dated back to 2011.
You can’t say that Redkach’s setbacks have been a "good" loss or a "good" draw, either. Yes, Zlaticanin can fight, but he kind of made Redkach look like he couldn’t. There wasn’t much good to take out of that fight for Redkach. And he really should have beaten Cruz, but he was dropped in the second round and had to put Cruz down in the eighth and ninth rounds just to wind up leaving with a split draw (scores were 94-94, 94-93, and 93-94).
This is a must-win scenario for Ivan Redkach. If he loses here, he can forget about any sort of guided path to a world title shot. If he wins, he might still work his way there sooner than later.
Record: 21-4-1 (5 KO) ... Streak: W14 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'6" / 69" ... Age: 25
Thoughts: Farmer is what you might call a grizzled young vet, a 25-year-old Philly fighter who started his career with a TKO loss in 2011, and in his first eight fights went 4-3-1, not exactly promising stuff for the future.
But he’s now riding a 14-fight win streak that dates back over three years, his last loss coming to Jose Pedraza, the current IBF super featherweight titleholder, in 2012. The streak is more impressive as a number than if you actually go digging into it at all, but he’s beaten some decent fighters in that time, taken three "0"s from opponents, and is coming off of back-to-back wins over veterans Daulis Prescott (KO-8) and Gamaliel Diaz (UD-10).
Farmer is a clever, crafty fighter, short for the 130 and 135-pound divisions at 5’6", but he’s got a lot of confidence right now, and he’s from Philadelphia, so we’ll get to hear 17 times about how that makes him extra special or whatever.
Matchup Grade: C+. It’s solid matchmaking, if not a particularly significant fight at the moment, at least in terms of world rankings or whatever. But it’s hugely significant for the two fighters. Neither can afford a loss, Farmer because he’s been waiting for this sort of opportunity, and Redkach because, well, the bubble has already been burst, now he’s trying to prove he’s not about to become a journeyman.