Frampton-Santa Cruz II: What to expect and great rematches of the past
By Hector Franco
January 25, 2017
This Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas fans will witness a rematch to one of the best fights of 2016. WBA featherweight champion Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) will defend his title against Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs). Their first fight took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY giving Frampton the feel of a hometown advantage. There were much more Irish than Mexican fans in attendance. Before the first fight, Santa Cruz also had to deal with his father and trainer going through a battle with cancer. Regardless, Frampton still clearly won the first fight by landing the cleaner more effective punches.
The circumstances surrounding the rematch are different, as Santa Cruz in Las Vegas will likely have a greater fan contingent than he did in Brooklyn. Santa Cruz’s father has also recovered from cancer leaving for a smoother training camp. In the rematch, Santa Cruz will have to get out to a faster start against Frampton, so he doesn’t have to play catch up in the second half of the fight. Frampton, however, is an intelligent fighter who knows this will be Santa Cruz’s strategy. Frampton in the first fight stopped Santa Cruz from starting fast by wobbling him and sending him to the ropes in the early rounds.
Many times rematches in boxing fail to live up to the first fight. Fights like Barrera-Morales II or Gatti-Ward II were still exciting fights but failed to compare to the first encounters. The same could happen with Frampton-Santa Cruz. But there have been rematches in boxing that have surpassed the first encounter.
We will look at fights that arguably brought more excitement and drama than their predecessor. We will only be looking at the direct rematch, so fights like Ali-Frazier III or Barrera-Morales III will not be included. Let us take a look back at some of the best examples of rematches being better than the original.
Edwin Rosario (47-6, 41 KOs) vs. Jose Luis Ramirez (102-9, 82 KOs) II
WBC Lightweight Championship - November 3, 1984
This fight without question is one of the best examples of a rematch being better than the first bout. Puerto Rico’s Edwin Rosario first met Mexico’s Jose Luis Ramirez in May of 1983 for the vacant WBC lightweight title. Rosario won a close unanimous decision in a fight that many felt could have been scored for Ramirez. The Mexican had a late round surge that saw him leave the ring as the fresher man. The first fight took place in Rosario’s home country of Puerto Rico.
After Rosario defeated Olympic Gold Medalist Howard Davis Jr. in June of 1984 a rematch with Ramirez was set up for November of that year. The rematch would take place in Puerto Rico at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.
Rosario started off the fight fast putting Ramirez on the canvas with a straight right hand. The Puerto Rican kept coming forward and applying pressure to Ramirez. In the second round, Rosario once again knocked Ramirez down this time with a barrage of punches against the ropes. This knockdown by Rosario seemed to indicate that Ramirez was hurt, unlike the flash knockdown that occurred in the first round. It seemed like Rosario was on his way to stopping Ramirez but the Mexican never changed his facial expression and kept working.
In the third round, Ramirez landed a punch that hurt Rosario putting him in survival mode for the rest of the fight. The end came in the next round, as Ramirez became a non-stop punching machine. He never let Rosario back into the fight even with some stiff right hands landing from the Puerto Rican. Ramirez unloaded a combination on Rosario leaving him out on his feet to the point that Rosario turned his back and faced one of the corners before the referee stopped the fight.
With the many great battles that took place in the 1980’s this battle is a forgotten classic that took place on NBC. Rosario and Ramirez were bigger punchers than Frampton and Santa Cruz and an early stoppage victory for either fighter this Saturday would be a huge surprise.
Sugar Ray Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KOs) vs. Thomas Hearns (61-5-1, 48 KOs) II
WBC and WBO Super Middleweight Championship - June 12, 1989
This next example is debatable, as many would argue that their classic first encounter when both men were in their prime was the better fight. What can’t be debated is that the second fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns was an exciting fight that was a worthy successor to the original.
By the time the two met in a rematch in 1989, the boxing landscape had changed. The two men along with Roberto Duran were the biggest names in boxing in the post-Ali era. In 1989, Leonard and Hearns were still big names but played second fiddle to the phenomenon of Mike Tyson. Even with Mike Tyson on the scene, Leonard was guaranteed a $13 million payday and Hearns got a guarantee of $11 million.
While the first fight took place in the welterweight division, the rematch would be taking place in boxing’s newest division at 168 pounds. The division would be called super middleweight. Leonard was the WBC champion at the weight and Hearns was the WBO champion in the division. The rematch was signed to place in June of 1989 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. With a foreshadowing of many fights that took place in today’s era, there was a catchweight of 164 pounds for the fight.
The fight followed the same pattern of the first fight with many changes in momentum. Hearns this time was able to score two knockdowns on Leonard in the third and 11th rounds. Leonard for his part also hurt Hearns many times having him almost out on his feet in the fifth and 12th rounds.
The fight was scored a draw with scores of 113-112 twice and 112-112. Many fans and pundits scored the fight with Hearns with the two knockdowns being the difference.
The rematch may not have been as significant when it comes to its importance in boxing history, but it can be argued that it was every bit as exciting.
Israel Vazquez (44-5, 32 KOs) vs. Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37 KOs) II
WBC Super Bantamweight Championship - August 04, 2007
One can only imagine the number of exciting fights that could be made if Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez were still in their primes to face the featherweights of today. Marquez and Vazquez took place in what could be argued as the best series of fights since the turn of the century.
Before moving up to 122-pounds Rafael Marquez was considered the best bantamweight in the world holding victories over Mark Johnson, Tim Austin, Silence Mabuza and Mauricio Pastrana twice. Even with the move up in weight Marquez was the favorite going into the fight with Vazquez.
Vazquez was on the best streak of his career going into the Marquez fight. He had been in a few fight of the year contenders with the likes of Oscar Larios and most notably Jhonny Gonzalez. The Gonzalez fight took place right before the first Marquez fight where Vazquez had to come from behind to score a knockout.
The first meeting between Marquez and Vazquez took place at the then-named Home Depot Center in Carson, California. In what was another great fight for both men Marquez came out on top after Vazquez couldn’t continue because of a broken nose. Many were left disappointed because of the outcome, but the action that took place inside the ring gave fans a yearning for a rematch.
A rematch came to fruition in August 2007 at the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo, Texas. This fight had a similar pace to the first fight with an excellent third round that saw Marquez hit the canvass. The rounds were even more intense and brutal than the first encounter with both men landing clean combinations on one another. Marquez’s chin couldn’t last longer than Vazquez's face as a bloodied Vazquez scored a sixth round stoppage in what would be named 2007’s fight of the year.
The two would go on to even eclipse their second fight with a sensational third bout that Vazquez won via split decision. By the time the two men faced off for a fourth encounter in May 2010, they were a shell of themselves. Vazquez’s face just couldn’t hold up to the punishment as Marquez stopped him in the early rounds. Vazquez would retire soon after and tragically end up losing one of his eyes due to the damage he sustained in his boxing career. Marquez would keep on fighting against the likes Juan Manuel Lopez, Toshiaki Nishioka and Christian Mijares with no success.
Both men may be voted into the Hall-of-Fame when their time comes. Their careers are a reminder of what the lower weight classes offer to the sport of boxing. These two men gave use technical brilliance mixed with savage brutality as each of their fights eclipsed the next one sans their fourth bout.
Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) II
WBC Super Featherweight Championship - March 15, 2008
The next fight just like the second Leonard-Hearns fight is debatable. In March 2008 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas Manny Pacquiao met Juan Manuel Marquez for the second time. It was one of the most highly anticipated fights that could be made in the sport at the time pitting two of the best fighters in the world in their prime against each other. They wanted to prove supremacy in their division and within their rivalry.
The two men first met in May 2004 in a classic fight that ended in a draw with Pacquiao scoring three knockdowns in the first round. Marquez bounced back winning enough rounds to have the fight scored a draw. Afterward, both men went in different directions; as Marquez would fight on undercards and go on to lose in Indonesia to Chris John. Pacquiao on the hand went to new heights in a trilogy of high action fights with Mexico’s Erik Morales.
Marquez had to work his way back to a rematch with Pacquiao by slightly changing his boxing style to have more exciting fights. Marquez in 2007 would finally get his due by winning an incredible battle with Marco Antonio Barrera. This set up what would be their second encounter.
The second fight was every bit as exciting as the first fight but fought at a more tactical pace. As was the case with the first fight many rounds could have been scored for either fighter. Pacquiao scored a knockdown in the third round to win the fight by just one point. The scores were 115-112 for Pacquiao, 115-112 for Marquez, and one final tally of 114-113 to give Pacquiao the narrow split decision.
At the time the fight was the highest selling pay-per-view for fights under the welterweight limit selling 400,000 buys. Fans still to this day debate who was the winner of the match. What is lost in the controversy of the decision is the greatness of the fight itself. The fight had everything you could ask for as a boxing fan. This was boxing at it’s best.
Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs) vs. Juan Manuel Lopez (35-5, 32 KOs) II
WBO Featherweight Championship - March 10, 2012
In March 2012, a somewhat forgotten gem took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A rematch of one of the bigger upsets in 2011 took place, and it lived up to every expectation. Orlando Salido had already traveled to Puerto Rico and stopped Lopez in their first fight. Then Lopez was undefeated and on his way to bigger fights with the likes of Yurorkis Gamboa.
Despite having what looks like to be a somewhat pedestrian record, Salido is one of the more underrated fighters in the sport. The fact of the matter is in 2017, Salido could arguably be a unified champion at 130-pounds if decisions had gone his way rather than be scored draws against Francisco Vargas and Roman Martinez. Salido also holds a victory over current pound-for-pound boxing media darling, Vasyl Lomachenko.
Before the first Salido fight, Lopez had shown signs that it might be just a matter of time before someone took advantage of his flaws. He was almost stopped and out on his feet against Rogers Mtagawa in October 2009.
With Puerto Rico falling short on champions, the rematch for Lopez was necessary to regain back what he lost in their first meeting.
The second fight started off with a fast pace with Salido coming forward being aggressive throwing punches in combination. Lopez kept calm but was in danger of losing most of the rounds. The Puerto Rican was able to make things closer by scoring with a sneaky right hook that dropped Salido in the fifth round.
The Mexican, however, was undeterred and only intensified his attack against Lopez. As the rounds went on both men were landing vicious blows to on one another, but Lopez seemed to be taking the worst of things.
The ninth round may have been the last round where Lopez was in his prime as he took a vicious beating in what was an absolute war. Lopez came out for the tenth round looking inebriated, and Salido took advantage by landing a beautiful combination highlighted with an uppercut. Lopez went down and got up before the count of ten. The Puerto Rican could no longer continue, and the referee waived the fight off.
2012 was a year of many great fights for the sport of boxing. It includes the fourth meeting between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, the first Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado battle and the fight between current pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada.
This fight could stand with all those fights and in the eyes of many surpasses them all.
When Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz meet for the second time this weekend, there will be pressure on both men to perform at a high level. Whether the fight is as good as the matches listed above may not matter. With the style and temperament of both men a battle that is even a notch below their first fight is acceptable. But if they surpass their first fight they will be in great company. Fans will have to wait and see
(Featured Photo: Getty Images)