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Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santa Cruz II Pick

Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santa Cruz II Fight Preview and Prediction to Win
When: Saturday, January 28, 2016
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Showtime
Weight Class: Featherweight (126 pounds)
Titles: WBA Featherweight Championship: 12 Rounds
By Loot, Boxing Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Carl Frampton, 23-0 (14 KOs), Belfast, Ireland
Vs.
Leo Santa Cruz, 32-1-1 (18 KOs), Rosemead, California

Betting Odds: Carl Frampton (-140), Leo Santa Cruz (+120)

Carl Frampton defends the WBA Featherweight title against Leo Santa Cruz on January 28 in Las Vegas. This is a rematch from a good fight in July when Frampton scored a mild upset with a majority decision win over Santa Cruz in a battle of unbeatens. They now switch coasts to the west for the rematch, with Santa Cruz, 28, eager to atone for his first career defeat. Frampton, 29, looks to add another nugget to his resume as he continues to build his credentials. Their first fight was highly-entertaining and Frampton-Santa Cruz II should follow suit.

Their first fight probably fell short of the Fight of the Year tag that some attached to it, but it was nevertheless a spellbinding bout. The consensus was that the decision was a deserved one for Frampton and it probably should have been unanimous. It was a riveting pairing of styles, with the high-volume aggression of Leo Santa Cruz coupled with the flashier, more improvisational work of Frampton. It should again make for a riveting mix.

I think there are a few problems with Santa Cruz heading into this fight. He's unquestionably a top battler, but one who lost to this fighter in a fight where the notion of him doing something markedly-different didn't immediately pop into mind. Santa Cruz heaves himself at his opponents with a workload that usually wins the day. But the clout that his punches had at 118-122 pounds hasn't resonated so much at 126 pounds. Against the best in this weight class, he's more of a powerless mauler. Not that Frampton didn't feel his shots, but the more-hurtful single shots were certainly registered by the Irishman in their first fight.

Santa Cruz is only 28, but his approach is a young man's style. Looking back, his prime will likely be identified at 23-27 years of age. He's perhaps an old 28, having squandered his best years biding time and taking on opponents that probably weren't at the level they should have been. He waited and waited, while rising in weight without a spelled-out end game. It was an aimless career plan and he should have been more-thoughtfully guided instead of wasting his best fighting in bouts that weren't all that compelling. In a dozen title bouts leading up to the first Frampton bout, the only big fight he took part in was against Abner Mares, which stands out as his best win—a really solid triumph.

In favor of Santa Cruz' case are a few things that could throw a different light on this fight, or at least narrow the gap. This fight is in Las Vegas, a town in which Santa Cruz is accustomed. Santa Cruz is now aware of what he's facing and maybe the setback served to refocus him and give him a little more of an edge. After all, Santa Cruz does not have a lot of ground to make up, with a few more rounds in his favor changing the result of this fight.

Santa Cruz is smart in what he does, without necessarily being a cerebral fighter. That was harder to notice until paired against the imaginative and improvisational flair of Frampton. There was a definite creativity gap in the first fight. That goes back to the level of opposition Santa Cruz fought leading up to that fight, a time when he should have been challenged more to develop his ability to adapt, overcome, and work through the different things that come in handy in fights of this magnitude.

There is a lot of quality in Frampton's record. A good amateur, Frampton rose through the ranks and became champion at 122 pounds in 2014. He successfully rose to featherweight in the first Santa Cruz fight. Before that fight, he had cut his chops in rising from two knockdowns to beat Alejandro Gonzalez, Jr., which was followed by a win over fellow unbeaten titleholder Scott Quigg. With the win over Santa Cruz, Frampton's resume is pretty strong through just 23 fights. His poise allowed him to remain composed in the face of a leather-storm from Santa Cruz, using his skill to find his own success in the eye of the storm. He's a very relaxed fighter, which allows him to see everything coming. His level of instinctive fighting knowledge is off-the-charts. He isn't classically-skilled, as a lot of what he does would be condemned by most traditional boxing trainers. He is able to work on the fly and get out of sticky situations. He's physically not all that imposing, a squat 5'5" with a shortish 65-inch reach. But the little guy is a top athlete and a tough Belfast fighter with a lot of tools.

Frampton is a thinker in the ring. He is a fighter who is quick on his toes who can launch forth with startling and sudden attacks that catch the eyes of the judges. Santa Cruz is certainly persistent, but most of his work is in one gear. With Frampton, there is more of a pleasing-to-the-eye variance in his output. He shuffles, he glides, then lands a telling shot or two. He lands soft shots, hard shots, and everything in-between. There are highs and lows and his style is somehow more compelling to the naked eye. And with the straight-ahead Santa Cruz, it stands out even more.

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With voluminous support from a pro-Irish Brooklyn crowd in the first fight, Frampton will be in a different environment for this fight. Santa Cruz will be more in his wheelhouse in Vegas. It's not like Frampton hasn't overcome some issues in his career, getting dropped twice by Gonzalez, Jr. and getting extended by Quigg late in their fight. He passed those tests and is better off as a result, but it's not like it's been nothing but one-way dominance from him his whole career. Consider it a byproduct of fighting top guys.

I felt Frampton won the first fight, with some rounds being pretty close. The gap Frampton held in the first fight wouldn't be impossible to make up for Santa Cruz. A different mindset, approach, and venue could be enough to bridge that gap for Santa Cruz. This fight looks like another distance encounter. While Santa Cruz could do better and set up a possible trilogy, I see this playing out similarly to their first fight, with Frampton holding a close but clear edge. I'll take the Irishman.

Loot's Pick to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Carl Frampton at -140. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Frampton vs. Santa Cruz II fight by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!

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