By John J. Raspanti:
Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) used quickness and intelligence to win a hard-fought 12-round split decision over Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) at the at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
The scores were 114-114, 116-112 and 117-111.
Maxboxing scored the fight 115-113 for Frampton.
As expected, Santa Cruz attacked from the opening bell. Frampton worked off his back foot. Santa Cruz landed a right--while Frampton connected with a solid left - right combination. Santa Cruz snapped Frampton’s head back with a couple of nice jabs.
Both champions went to the body in round two. Santa Cruz knocked Frampton back with a sweeping right hand. Frampton, the pride of Belfast, Ireland, staggered Santa Cruz with a big left hook.
In rounds three and four, Frampton, who entered the fight a heavy underdog, continued to use his advantage in speed. Santa Cruz worked his jab, but was missing more punches than usual. Frampton connected with a stinging uppercut, but Santa Cruz fought back. Frampton cuffed Santa Cruz with a left hook. His punches were crisp and effective. Santa Cruz ate a left hook at the bell.
Frampton, 29, opened round five by landing a beauty of a right hand. Santa Cruz, a native of Rosemead, CA, tried to box more in round six, but Frampton was beating him to the punch. His short hooks and quick feet were causing Santa Cruz all kinds of problems.
The next two rounds was a showcase for punching. Both champions landed good blows. Frampton was still getting of first. Two overhand rights connected. Santa Cruz ended round seven by connecting with two left hooks, but Frampton’s punches were harder.
Santa Cruz, 27, did well in round eight by going to the head and body. Frampton fired back with stinging counter blows. In round nine, Frampton fought with a sense of urgency. He stunned Santa Cruz with a left uppercut and right hand. The defending WBA champion fired back, but Frampton’s ability to avoid shots was paying dividends. He’d step in, step way, and fire. His counter punches were overwhelming Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz rallied a bit in Round 10. He landed a classic one-two, but Frampton absorbed the blows without incident. Santa Cruz connected with a uppercut. Frampton battled back to make the round close.
Frampton landed a half dozen left hooks to the body in round 11.
Santa Cruz stunned Frampton with a right hand. Both fighters traded right hands.
Frampton appeared to have an edge going into the last round. Would he box or stand in the pocket and brawl? He answered that question quickly by stunning Santa Cruz with a left hook.
Santa Cruz found Frampton with two strong right hands. Frampton went back to the body. Santa Cruz fought back, but it appeared that Frampton had done enough to be crowned the new WBA featherweight champion.
“I have a great respect for Leo Santa Cruz ,” said Frampton. ”I used distance and control .”