Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton II turned out to be as entertaining and action-packed a scrap as their first fight. Both fighters showed remarkable sportsmanship and mutual respect before, during and after the bout. But thrilling fights and gallantry are a dime a dozen in the sport of boxing. What made this fight really exceptional was its pre- and post-fight level of transparency.
To reveal one's game plan is short-sighted at best, foolhardy at worst, in any sport. Santa Cruz, though, had no inhibitions about throwing all his cards on the table and laying out the exact fight strategy he had devised before going into battle. Frampton edged him in their first encounter with superior gamesmanship, yet Santa Cruz saw no need to hide the adjustments he intended to make In the rematch. Santa Cruz executed everything he declared he would do - utilize his longer reach to control distance and tempo, tone down his natural propensity to brawl and only engage in exchanges on his terms - to a tee to win the fight. So confident of victory was Santa Cruz that he even had the foresight to talk about a rubber match before weighing in for the rematch.
Frampton, for his part, displayed a degree of perspective and humility rarely seen in the sport. In close fights, the loser typically truly believes he had won in the immediate aftermath. It usually takes a week or two of reflection and reviewing replays before he grudgingly concedes defeat. But minutes after the fight was over, Frampton spoke with the objectivity and overview of an unbiased journalist who had just covered the fight from ringside supplemented by multiple camera angles. With brute honesty, he candidly admitted that the fight was close but the verdict fair, apologized to his fans and admonished himself for ignoring what Santa Cruz openly stated he was going to do.
Santa Cruz's more conservative approach did not diminish the thrill level of the fight, but much of the credit should go to Frampton for pressing the action and forcing Santa Cruz to brawl more than he wanted to. Each fighter is now the culprit for the other's only loss so a third encounter is simply a no-brainier.
Frampton campaigned vigorously for the rubber match to be held in Belfast, and that would probably be fair since the first two fights were waged on American soil. Although Frampton could easily fill to capacity the largest soccer stadium in Ireland, Vegas or New York would still make more economic sense for all parties involved. London, perhaps, would be an evenhanded compromise.