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Frampton vs Santa Cruz II: Fight preview and analysis

Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz are ready to do it again this Saturday on Showtime.

Leo Santa Cruz v Carl Frampton Photo by Anthony Geathers/Getty Images

Carl Frampton vs Leo Santa Cruz

Carl Frampton

Boxing: Santa Cruz vs Frampton Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 23-0 (14 KO) ... Streak: W23 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5" / 62" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: I always bring this up, but it’s because I like how it turned out. Years back, Barry McGuigan was going on and on and on about this fighter he had, Carl Frampton, who he predicted would win world titles and be a big star. A lot of people laughed him off, just figured it was typical promoter hype. “Yeah, I’ve got this kid from Belfast, he’s a great one!”

Turns out McGuigan was right. Frampton has won world titles at 122 and now 126, has beaten top fighters in Leo Santa Cruz and Scott Quigg, has a number of solid wins otherwise, and the only thing negative you can say about his career, really, is that he didn’t fight Guillermo Rigondeaux at 122 before moving up, but who can say who’s really to blame there? Maybe it just wasn’t doable. I don’t know. It’s not like Frampton has shown fear of facing top fighters.

He beat Santa Cruz clean and clear with a really good performance last year. Usually, the winner of the first fight is going to win the rematch. So that favors Frampton, for whatever it’s worth. That said, this is still a fairly even matchup on paper, no HUGE favorite, and could go either way.

Leo Santa Cruz

Boxing: Santa Cruz vs Frampton Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 32-1-1 (18 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7½" / 69" ... Age: 28

Thoughts: While the winner of a first fight usually wins the rematch, I don’t have a hard time imagining Santa Cruz getting revenge here and setting up a trilogy bout. There are things he can do better this time, and if he can make those adjustments and execute a good game plan, he definitely can win.

Santa Cruz took a lot of flack in years past for weak opponents, which was entirely valid. Some of the guys he faced were really lousy “world title contenders” — in that they weren’t — but he’s also now faced Abner Mares and Frampton twice in his last three fights. That’s a good run, and shows he has no problem taking on top opposition, or trying to get right back on the horse after a loss. Santa Cruz could have taken a softer touch and then tried to get a rematch later this year, but his target after losing to Frampton was Frampton.

Can/will Santa Cruz adjust, though? Maybe. He can do better, but I’m not sure that it’s enough. I’m not sure it’s not enough, either. He fights the way he fights, he is who he is in the ring, and he’s a very good fighter with some flaws. That’s just fine.

Matchup Grade: A-. We saw it once, and it lived up to the hype, pretty much, a good fight between two top fighters in their primes. It should be that way again. Maybe it’ll be a little better, maybe a little worse. A lot of that depends on what Santa Cruz’s approach is this time. But it’s a must-see matchup.

Dejan Zlaticanin vs Mikey Garcia

Dejan Zlaticanin

Record: 22-0 (15 KO) ... Streak: W22 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'4" / 65" ... Age: 32

Thoughts: A good fighter. There’s nothing special to Zlaticanin. He’s a short, squat lightweight who likes to throw a ton of punches.

The good news is that could overwhelm Garcia. The bad — and probably more likely — news is that could get him whacked around by a technician like Garcia. Zlaticanin has wins over Petr Petrov, Ricky Burns, and Ivan Redkach as his three best. None of those guys are Mikey Garcia, or at least what Mikey Garcia can be.

This is a tough matchup for Zlaticanin, as he defends his WBC lightweight belt for the first time. He beat a policeman to get it. He faces a highly skilled professional boxer to keep it.

Mikey Garcia

Mikey Garcia v Juan Carlos Burgos Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Record: 35-0 (29 KO) ... Streak: W35 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 68" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: Mikey Garcia has pound-for-pound level talent, and was making waves in that regard back in 2013-14, when he beat Orlando Salido, Juan Maneul Lopez, Rocky Martinez, and Juan Carlos Burgos. Then his career stopped. Promotional disputes with his old bosses at Top Rank led to an extended absence, and after January 25, 2014, we wouldn’t see Garcia back in the ring again until July 30, 2016.

Last year, Garcia got back out there and looked a little rusty but overall just fine against Elio Rojas, who was also breaking a long layoff. Fighting as a junior welterweight, Garcia put Rojas away in five rounds, and made his intention clear to move down to lightweight and target a world title.

He’s got that opportunity now. He has a lot of advantages against Zlaticanin, but if Garcia has forgotten what it’s like to be in a real fight, he could get a wake-up call from the Montenegro brawler, who will likely come at Mikey with everything he’s got, since he doesn’t really know any other way.

Matchup Grade: B-. If anything, I think I’m being a little generous here. The truth is, I expect Garcia to pick Zlaticanin apart. That said, I also expect it to be entertaining while it lasts, because Zlaticanin really only has one speed, and if he can hang in and take some shots, he could make this tough on Mikey.

Lee Selby vs Jonathan Victor Barros

Lee Selby

Boxing at The O2 Arena Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Record: 23-1 (8 KO) ... Streak: W19 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8½" / 69" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: The worst idea Selby and/or his team have ever had was starting that “Welsh Mayweather” business. First of all, Selby lost his fourth pro fight. I’m not saying it really matters now, because it doesn’t. But it’s hard to be anyone’s Mayweather when you lost to Samir Mouneimne, isn’t it?

Second of all, it just invited jokes if he so much as struggled in a fight. And though he holds the IBF featherweight title, Selby hasn’t exactly knocked anyone’s socks off in his first two defenses, decision wins over Fernando Montiel in October 2015 and Eric Hunter in April 2016. Neither of those opponents were great contenders, but they both put up a fight, even if Selby did deserve to win both bouts, which he definitely did.

Putting Selby and his IBF belt on this card would seem a way for him to audition to face the Frampton-Santa Cruz winner, particularly if it’s Frampton. That would be a big fight in the UK, where it would be very easy to sell the unification between two of the best in the United Kingdom and two of the best in the world. (If Santa Cruz beats Frampton, one would expect a potential trilogy match, or at least it would be in the discussion.)

Jonathan Victor Barros

The Ring

Record: 41-4-1 (22 KO) ... Streak: W7 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: N/A / N/A ... Age: 32

Thoughts: Barros definitely has a few things going for him:

  1. He’s faced better fighters than Selby in the past.
  2. He’s coming off of a win over Satoshi Hosono.
  3. He’s durable, with only one stoppage loss.

If you remember Barros from something other than his win in Japan over Hosono last October, it might be one of his four losses, against Yuriorkis Gamboa (2010), Celestino Caballero (2011), Juan Carlos Salgado (2012), or Mikey Garcia (2012). Only Garcia stopped him.

But you might also remember him from some other decent wins, including beating Caballero in their first fight in 2011, or his win over Mickey Roman earlier that same year.

Barros is not a bad fighter. He is a fringe contender who is currently at a peak level of usefulness in this sort of matchup, coming off of a good win but not someone who will be seen as a major threat to Selby or the IBF belt.

Still, all things being equal, and neither of them will have home advantage in Vegas, he would also perhaps be the best win of Selby’s career, and is at least the equal of the likes of Joel Brunker, Evgeny Gradovich, a faded Fernando Montiel, and Eric Hunter.

Matchup Grade: C. It’s not a bad fight. It’s nothing to get overly excited for unless one of the combatants is a relative of yours or something, but it’s not a bad fight.

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