Carl Frampton
Frampton suffered the first loss of his professional career in his rematch against Santa Cruz. Getty

After Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz tore the house down for a second time in Las Vegas Saturday night (28 January), there was one question on everyone's lips: when is the rematch?

Santa Cruz won the same WBA featherweight title he lost to Frampton in July 2016, outpointing the Irishman in another mesmerising encounter between two superbly gifted boxers. It's a win apiece for these two and the genuine cordiality they share – Frampton immediately applauded his opponent as the judges' decision was called out on Saturday – means a third fight between them should be a no-brainer.

But of course, nothing in boxing is ever simple. Fights that make perfect sense go years without happening – sometimes not at all.

While Santa Cruz made it clear in the immediate aftermath of his win he is game for a final decider in Belfast, he had to admit the final decision won't just be down to him and Frampton.

"If it was up to me, I will go and fight him [in Belfast]," the 28-year-old Mexican told BBC Sport. "But it's not just up to me. It's also up to my promoter and my manager and they have to decide, they have to come to an agreement.

So what if the dream scenario doesn't become a reality? IBTimes UK considers the other options for Frampton over the next six months.

Lee Selby?

Had Frampton defended his WBA strap on Saturday night, he would have been all set for a showdown with IBF champion Lee Selby at Windsor Park this summer – a fight both men had been eagerly talking up before the Santa Cruz fight. The Belfast fighter wasn't the only one disappointed on Saturday; Selby had been preparing for his Las Vegas debut on the undercard until his fight was pulled less than 24 hours before, after would-be opponent Jonathan Barros failed to meet licensing conditions.

A perfect scenario would have seen Frampton defend his title and Selby dispatch Barros to set up the Wales vs Northern Ireland showdown. Could they go at it anyway? Selby, who was almost in tears after the fight he had prepared religiously for was cancelled, would certainly need a tune-up fight under his belt first, having not fought since April 2016, on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's IBF title triumph.

Lee Selby
Selby was due to fight on Saturday's undercard until his fight was pulled at the last minute. Getty

Oscar Valdez?

What made both Frampton vs Santa Cruz such compelling viewing on both occasions was their styles being a perfect foil for each other. Frampton believes the same applies to WBO champion Oscar Valdez. "Brilliant fighter," the now-former WBA champion recently remarked. "I think our styles would gel very well. I think a fight with him would be like the Leo Santa Cruz fight."

Oscar Valdez
Undefeated Valdez last defended his WBO title in November 2016 against Hiroshige Osawa. Getty

Valdez's fearsome knockout record has seen him end 18 of his 21 professional fights before the final bell and while it may lack the intrigue of a third Santa Cruz fight or the appeal of an all-British showdown with Selby, it would be a great opportunity for Frampton to immediately get back among the world title scene. Valdez has spoken of his desire to tackle the best the featherweight division has to offer before stepping up to 130lbs and was keen to take on Frampton when he spoke to FightHubTV last year. That was on the provision there would be two belts on the line, however.

Abner Mares or Gary Russell Jnr?

If the Santa Cruz fight doesn't come, Frampton could have a problem. While the quality within the current featherweight division champions means the weight is now hugely competitive, all the big hitters have eyes on unification matches. Regular WBA champion Abner Mares is keen to mix it up with Selby and covets his IBF crown. Mares is also keen on a rematch with Santa Cruz who defeated him in August 2015. Similarly, WBC champion Gary Russell Jnr wants to unify the division before following the only man to defeat him in Vasyl Lomachenko up to 130lbs.

Frampton's stock remains high despite his first loss in 24 professional fights. The 29-year-old is keen to bring his next contest back to his hometown to repay his legions of travelling fans. You'll be hard pushed to find a boxing fan who doesn't want that fight to be Frampton vs Santa Cruz III. Let's hope common sense prevails for once.