Fight Club: Carl Frampton eyes up Leo Santa Cruz bout

Andy Lewis 22:05 28/02/2016
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Ulster uppercut: Carl Frampton lands the fourth round shot which broke Scott Quigg’s jaw.

Scott Quigg’s physical pain will ease – but the mental scars of his world super-bantamweight unification defeat to Carl Frampton on Saturday night could stay with him a lot longer.

Northern Irishman Frampton added Quigg’s WBA title to his own IBF belt having got the nod courtesy of 116-112 counts in his favour by two judges, with the other giving the bout to his opponent 115-113.

That third card was inexplicably generous to Quigg whose inertia through the first half of the fight rendered his late rally inconsequential. Rumours abounded in the build-up that the Bury fighter would stand off Frampton in an attempt to coax aggression – and mistakes – rather than press and back himself in a shootout.

If that was indeed the gameplan then it backfired spectacularly – and at the cost of the overall spectacle – as the Jackal refused to take the bait, instead staying just busy enough to pinch the rounds and build a commanding lead.

In his corner Quigg had Joe Gallagher, the recently-crowned Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year, but he took far too long to spell out the gravity of the situation and by the time he articulated the size of the deficit to a visibly-shocked Quigg, he already needed a knockout.

He went in search of one, finally upping the pace, letting his hands go and attacking the body.

And just like that, the 10th and 11th rounds became a microcosm of the all-action affair so eagerly anticipated beforehand.

Had Quigg come alive earlier, he might just have won, and that’s why the agony of a broken jaw revealed in the aftermath could pale in comparison to the anguish caused by a head full of regrets.

Peppered by body shots, Frampton was then staggered in the penultimate session by a huge right to the head, but battled back to craftily weave his way through the 12th and earn a deserved victory. Quigg was close to tears.

“It is absolutely killing me inside, but I’ll be back,” he said. “As soon as I can get back in the gym, I’ll be putting the work in and I’ll make sure it will never happen again. Maybe I left it too late.”

For Frampton, who was vindicated in his belief that his superior skills would prove the difference, it is on to bigger and better things either as a super-bantamweight or with a move up to featherweight.

The WBA, who own his newly-acquired slice of gold, have already mandated he face Guillermo Rigondeaux, the 35-year-old Cuban double Olympic gold medallist, who is 16-0 as a professional.

Despite his supreme ability, ‘Rigo’ struggles to generate interest in his fights, largely because of his defensive style. It’s a dangerous assignment for Frampton and his promoter, Barry McGuigan, is well aware the risk outweighs the reward. Instead, his man is likely to chase a showdown with Mexico’s Leo Santa Cruz, the WBC champion. Both Frampton and Santa Cruz have advisory deals with Al Haymon’s PBC stable so in theory in shouldn’t be hard to make.

“We need to step it up to the next level,” said McGuigan. “The money fight is Santa Cruz. The difference between him and Scott is that Scott was unsure and just didn’t want to throw as he was so apprehensive because he was being hit hard. Santa Cruz does let go and it would be a fabulous fight.”

Frampton added: “It is very appealing. I think Santa Cruz could do super-bantam, but if I have to go to featherweight… I wouldn’t go to featherweight for a no-mark but he obviously is a big name.”

For Quigg, his rival’s antipathy towards a Rigondeaux showdown may open the door for him to face the Cuban. His old WBA title could even be on offer if the entirely realistic scenario of Frampton being stripped unfolds.

A rematch, however, was naturally the first thing on his mind.

“Obviously it is the fight I want,” said Quigg. “The guy has just beaten me and I 100 per cent believe I can beat him, having been in there and been comfortable, then put it on him like I did in the last bit.”

Unfortunately for Quigg, the demand to see it again will be minimal, and he’ll be left to mull what might have been.

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