Carl Frampton has captured the WBA world featherweight crown by beating defending champion Leo Santa Cruz on points in Brooklyn, New York City. The Northern Irishman has become his country's first two-weight world champion after overcoming the odds to defeat the Mexican at the Barclays Center.
Frampton, 29, was named the clear winner of the enthralling contest by two of the judges, although the third judge scored the bout a draw. The unbeaten fighter subsequently admitted he was thrilled to have proven his credentials against a world-class opponent.
"I wanted to be in a fight people would remember. I wanted to be in with true champions like Leo Santa Cruz," Frampton said, according to the BBC. "This guy is a three-weight world champion. He is a true warrior and I respect him a hell of a lot."
He said, too, that he would be happy to fight a rematch against Santa Cruz, although he also admitted he could face IBF champion, Lee Selby.
"I would love to bring him to Belfast and show them an amazing fighter but I have a good relationship with Lee Selby's team," Frampton shared. "I want to be the best and be involved in big fights."
The Belfast-born boxer began the biggest challenge of his career in fine style, rocking his opponent on to the ropes in the second round. And while Santa Cruz – who boasted a two-inch reach advantage – was the more active fighter, his punches were proving to be less accurate and effective in the early exchanges.
After conceding some of his early advantage in rounds six and seven, Frampton re-established control as the fight moved towards the championship rounds. Santa Cruz pushed for a knockout in the closing stages, but he did not do enough to retain his title.
One judge scored the fight a 114-114 draw, while the remaining two made Frampton the winner, 116-112 and 117-111. Santa Cruz, 27, subsequently insisted he wanted to rematch the Northern Irishman as soon a possible.
"It was a pretty tough fight but now I want a rematch. I don't care where," he said. "He's a great champion and he's got a very difficult style. It's hard to forget your first loss but I will go back to the gym and get a rematch."