By John J. Raspanti
Rematches, like movie sequels, are usually letdowns.
Usually, but not always.
Even the second fight between "blood and guts" warriors Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward didn’t capture the imagination of fight fans like their first go around.
But the bout was still good,loaded with drama and intrigue.
The Muhammad Ali—Joe Frazier rematch is rarely talked about. It wasn’t “The Fight of the Century,” but it was a competitive nail-biter between two Hall of Fame boxers. By the way, does anyone say Rocky 2 better than Rocky? I think not.
So, what do we expect will happen on January 28 when champions Carl “The Jackel” Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz get it on for the second time?
That’s easy. I expect a good, exciting match.
Frampton,29, is basking in glory right now. He recently picked up “Fighter of the Year” accolades from this website and many others. He wants to confirm that he’s a better boxer than Santa Cruz.
“I’m hungry to prove that this (his first fight victory) wasn’t a fluke,” Frampton said to www.skysports.com a few weeks ago. “I see some people talking that I got lucky last time.”
Frampton doesn’t roll with luck. It’s his fighting skill that’s allowed him to reach the mountaintop. Last year, in a fight where he was considered the underdog by many, Frampton outworked Scott Quigg to unify the super-bantamweight division.
It wasn’t easy. Quigg can really crack--he wouldn’t allow a broken jaw suffered earlier in the bout to derail him. Quiqq rallied instead, although Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) used his legs to capture a close split decision.
Next up was two-division titleholder Santa Cruz, undefeated in 32 fights with 18 knockouts.
Again, Frampton was the underdog.
Santa Cruz, 28, could easily be nicknamed “Action Santa Cruz.” He throws punches in bunches. He overwhelmed most of the 32 fighters he defeated. Not with power, but volume.
He walks his opponents down and let fly. Santa Cruz expected that his tried and true formula would work last July against Frampton.
It did at times, but Frampton hurt him in Round two and controlled most of the fight. “The Jackel” walked away with a majority decision. Santa Cruz was disappointed.
“I take nothing away from Frampton. He is a great fighter. He came in like I expected,” Santa Cruz told www.fightnews.com last week. “A quick slick boxer that moves, he countered really good and did what he had to do, but if I would have came in with a great plan, it would have been a different fight.”
Santa Cruz wasted no time securing another fight with Frampton.
“Right after the fight I talked to my manager and he said he would get me the rematch. I found out after that there was a rematch clause so I wanted it,” Santa Cruz said.
Frampton isn’t concerned.
“He has that typical Mexican style, where he comes forward nonstop and has a ’never say die’ attitude,” Frampton said. “People like that, but I have the antidote for it and I showed that in the last fight.”
Both fighters feel they’ve improved since their first fight.
“I want to go out and show what I have worked on,” said Santa Cruz.
Frampton countered, “I genuinely feel like I’m getting better. I think Leo’s going to be in for a tough night.”
It’s difficult for any elite fighter to improve after a number of years in the ring. He can tweak his style, or make adjustments. But get better? It rarely happens.
So, what happens January 28 at the MGM Garden Grand Arena in Las Vegas, NV?
Volume puncher Santa Cruz will likely try and be a little more patient. Frampton will be ready. His greatest advantage could be that he has Santa Cruz’s number. Not much a fighter can do about that.
I see Frampton keeping his titles with close decision victory.
Some will say the second fight didn’t live up to its billing.
Get your own copy of Intimate Warfare: The True Story of The Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward Trilogy by Dennis Taylor and John J. Raspantii.