LOS ANGELES: Leo Santa Cruz reclaimed the World Boxing Association featherweight world title on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), handing Carl Frampton the first defeat of his career and avenging his 2016 loss to the Northern Ireland star.
In an explosive rematch that lived up to their bruising encounter last July, it was Santa Cruz who this time emerged with a majority decision, with two judges scoring it 115-113 for the US-based Mexican while the third scored it a draw at 114-114.
“I wanted revenge,” said Santa Cruz, whose loss to Frampton last year was his first defeat. “I did what I had to do. I knew it was going to be another tough fight and like I said, let’s make it a third fight.”
Santa Cruz improved to 33-1 with one drawn while Frampton fell to 23-1.
Although Frampton landed plenty of telling blows in a fight filled with frenetic exchanges, he was repeatedly pushed out of position by Santa Cruz’s effective jab.
After a strong 11th round, Santa Cruz withstood a desperate attack from Frampton in the final round.
On the same card, American Mikey Garcia won his third world title with a ruthless third-round knockout of World Boxing Council lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin of Montenegro.
A right upper-cut followed by a monstrous overhand right from Garcia knocked Zlaticanin out cold at 2:21 of the third round.
Garcia’s in-ring celebrations gradually turned to expressions of concern as medical personnel worked for several minutes to revive Zlaticanin, who endured his first defeat in 23 fights.
Garcia, a former featherweight and super featherweight titlist, improved to 36-0 with 30 knockouts.
Garcia had used an effective jab to control the bout from the first round.
A third scheduled world title fight on the card between International Boxing Federation featherweight world champion Lee Selby of Wales and former world champion Jonathan Victor Barros was cancelled apparently because of Barros health issues.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission said it declined to issue Barros a license and ESPN reported he had tested positive for hepatitis.
Selby, who had said in the build-up to the bout that his dream was to fight in Las Vegas, was gutted at the weigh-in on Friday.