Carl Frampton: Is a Leo Santa Cruz re-match his biggest gamble?

Leo Santa Cruz on the defensive as Carl Frampton lands a punch in the Belfast man's victory
Leo Santa Cruz on the defensive as Carl Frampton lands a punch in the Belfast man's victory last year
WBA featherweight world title bout: Carl Frampton v Leo Santa Cruz
Date: Saturday, 28 January Venue: MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas Start: From 04:00 GMT (Sunday)
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

After Carl Frampton's dazzling win over unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz in one of 2016's fights of the year, is the Belfast boxer taking a risk by facing the slick Mexican again this weekend?

Former world champions Dave 'Boy' McAuley, Barry McGuigan and Wayne McCullough, three of Ireland's biggest boxing names, have all been involved in high-profile rematches with mixed results.

So will Frampton's gamble pay off in Las Vegas and propel 'The Jackal' to bigger and better things? Or will the Belfast fighter live to regret the decision after suffering his first career defeat?

'I wanted a second crack at this guy'

McAuley's first professional fight would influence the rest of his career.

Before he fought Tanzania's John Mwaimu, he decided that if he lost, he would never fight again.

It finished in a draw and he continued to fight, although he carried the result around with him for the next few years.

"Down the line, after four or five fights, I thought I wanted to have a second crack at this guy because I thought I could beat him and the second time I fought him I beat him quite handy," said McAuley.

In his 14th professional fight, McAuley got a shot at the WBA world flyweight title.

Unbeaten until then, he faced a big step up by fighting one of the era's greatest flyweights, Colombia's Fidel Bassa.

"I was still very green behind the ears. I was tense the whole time and inexperience was the main reason that I lost," said McAuley.

Dave 'Boy' McAuley and Fidel Bassa in the ring during their 1987 world flyweight title fight at the Kings Hall in Belfast
Dave 'Boy' McAuley and Fidel Bassa in the ring during their 1987 world flyweight title fight at the Kings Hall in Belfast

The bout was named the 1987 'Fight of the Year' and many people thought he was crazy when he signed up for a rematch, although McAuley says he would have gone for a third fight if given the chance.

"I fought a title eliminator and got the chance to face him again. I had improved my fight game dramatically, but it wasn't enough," said McAuley.

"But I think if I had fought him a third time, I would have had the measure of him."

'There wasn't a mark on me'

Frampton's manager McGuigan lost to Peter Eubanks on points in 1981. He then came back and beat him by TKO in December of the same year.

The 'Cyclone' said he simply wanted the blemish of defeat off his record and he was never tempted into a third fight.

Meanwhile, McCullough had two bouts with Oscar Larios in 2005. The 'Pocket Rocket' had lost on a unanimous decision in the first fight that February in California, only to get a rematch in July in Las Vegas.

"People had me winning that first fight. I thought I won it clearly, so I wanted to go back and prove myself in front of fair, commissioned judges in Vegas," he said.

However, McCullough lost out with the fight stopped controversially in the 10th round.

"I had been in the wars with Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales and been busted up but those fights weren't stopped, but here it was and there wasn't a mark on me."

Wayne McCullough and Oscar Larious exchange blows in the July 2005 rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena
Wayne McCullough and Oscar Larious exchange blows in the July 2005 rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena

Taking a rematch risk

Lose or draw, getting back in the ring is a chance to vindicate yourself as soon as possible. But what happens when you win the first fight and decide to take a rematch?

Faced with the same situation as Frampton is now, McAuley chose to have a rematch with Rodolfo Blanco in 1992, two years after beating him.

"The first fight could have gone either way. It was a tough, tough fight. I wanted to win the second fight because I wanted to prove that winning the first fight wasn't a fluke."

But this time Blanco came out as the victor. McAuley added: "I wanted to put all that negative stuff behind me. And I think I won the second fight pretty clearly, but not on the judges' scorecards unfortunately."

So what does that mean for Frampton?

With Frampton's fight on Saturday night one of the year's most eagerly awaited, McAuley thinks the WBA world featherweight champion should win, citing Santa Cruz's possible negative mental state.

He also believes that Santa Cruz should have turned down the first fight with Frampton.

"It will be in the back of Santa Cruz's mind that he was beaten. And he'll be thinking 'what if it happens again?'.

"A voluntary defence means you fight someone you are more than capable of beating. I would have said no - you only fight the likes of Carl Frampton if you have to and they only realised that when they lost."

McCullough thinks Frampton is taking a calculated risk because of his ability to adapt.

"Coming off a win in the last one, Carl will win easier. He now knows what to expect and he will be smarter and have the measure of him this time."

Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz went face-to-face in Los Angeles last month in the build-up to Saturday's showdown
Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz went face-to-face in Los Angeles last month in the build-up to Saturday's showdown

On the possibility of a third meeting in Windsor Park, McAuley says there isn't much hope either way.

"They'll have to honour the first contract. If Carl Frampton wins, there could be a third ... probably not though. And if Santa Cruz wins he'll probably go elsewhere because his boys have drawn the contract up."

With that in mind, it might be unwise to hope for a trilogy, especially if Frampton wins again. Because if you beat someone twice, would it be worth going back for a third time?

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