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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 8 July, 2020
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Stats don't lie: Carl Frampton is up against one of the best in the world this weekend

Leo Santa Cruz is a big step up from any of the Jackal’s previous opponents.

Santa Cruz celebrates his featherweight title win against Abner Mares in August 2015.
Santa Cruz celebrates his featherweight title win against Abner Mares in August 2015.
Image: Danny Moloshok

IF CARL FRAMPTON can overcome the daunting challenge of Leo Santa Cruz this weekend, his achievement can be summed up in one word.

Herculean.

The Mexican is arguably his country’s second best boxing export after Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and will, by considerable distance, be the toughest test yet for the unbeaten Jackal.

Santa Cruz is a three-division world champion and top 20 pound-for-pound fighter, but many boxing experts would argue that the 27-year old deserves to be much higher up that list.

Santa Cruz Roman Boxing Leo Santa Cruz knocks down Manuel Roman during the second round of their WBC super bantamweight title. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Recent data released by CompuBox, which tracks and provides statistics for all major boxing events, painted a foreboding picture for the man from Tiger’s Bay and his team.

Their date shows Santa Cruz to be one of the top three fighters in the world in the key categories of total punches thrown; landed; connect percentage; and power punches landed.

Adding to the ominous viewing for the Belfast man are stats which suggest that the man they call “El Terremoto” — “The Earthquake” — is the world’s best in the plus/minus category.

The number measures the ratio between the amount of punches a fighter connects with his opponent and the amount of punches his opponent connects with him. Floyd Mayweather’s mastery of this category is what made him so hard to beat over the years, a vivid illustration of the challenge which lies ahead for Frampton.

The Mexican will also boast a significant height and reach advantage over his opponent and it’s likely that Frampton will be forced to fight on the inside as a result. He will need to execute sublime fight management, a trait which has been lacking in recent fights, to overcome the disadvantage.

Alejandro Gonzalez Jr should have been an easy fight for Frampton but his win was anything but convincing as he hit the canvas twice during the fight.

Carl Frampton v Scott Quigg - Manchester Arena Carl Frampton celebrates with his trainer Shane McGuigan after beating Scott Quigg last February in Manchester. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Santa Cruz has a very similar build to Gonzalez Jr. A similar performance on Saturday night to the one Frampton gave in El Paso 12 months ago, will see the fight finish well short of the 12th round.

This bout may be relatively new territory for the man from Belfast, but it is nothing new for his opponent who has beaten numerous world champions over his career.

Frampton may have beaten world champions in the past but names such as Victor Terrazas, Cristian Mijares, Alexander Munoz and Kiko Martinez are among the belt holders who have fallen victim to the boxer based in California.

Martinez perhaps pops out most strikingly from that list as Frampton also beat the Spaniard to capture the IBF world super bantamweight title back in 2014 by unanimous decision.

Santa Cruz brushed by Martinez in far more devastating fashion with the referee stopping the match in the fifth round last February. Frampton’s two wins — a ninth-round stoppage in 2013 and that 2014 points decision — are a far cry from the domination Santa Cruz displayed.

Despite fighting numerous world champions, the biggest fight of Santa Cruz’s career came 11 months ago against Abner Mares. Although struggling at times in the fight, the fighter, trained by his father, was able to grind out a majority decision against one of the best in the game.

Mares, like Santa Cruz, was also a three-weight world champion having won titles in the bantamweight, super-bantamweight and featherweight divisions, thus highlighting the fact that the current featherweight champion is more than capable of handling himself on the biggest stage.

Source: 3-7-ACE 3/YouTube

Unfortunate events hit the Santa Cruz household earlier this year, as the 27-year old’s father turned-trainer was diagnosed with Stage 3 myeloma, a bone cancer of the spine.

Prospects were initially grim for José Santa Cruz but his son will be motivated by the way his father has recovered better than expected and he may yet be present in the corner in New York at the weekend.

Saturday’s fight, a first for Santa Cruz on the east coast of America, will offer Frampton and his team the advantage of fighting in a relatively neutral venue.

New York’s large Irish population are sure to make their presence felt in the Barclays Center but that will most certainly be matched by the huge Mexican population that can be found the length and breath of the country.

Either way, Frampton will need much more than overwhelming support if he is to retain the “0″ in his record.

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