Carl Frampton v Leo Santa Cruz: Barry McGuigan says fighter is at pinnacle

Carl Frampton, Barry McGuigan, Shane McGuigan
Barry McGuigan's son Shane (far right) is Carl Frampton's trainer
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

WBA world featherweight champion Carl Frampton is at the "pinnacle" of boxing going into a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz, says his manager Barry McGuigan.

Frampton, 29, faces former champion Santa Cruz in Las Vegas on Saturday, after claiming the Mexican's title in a thrilling fight in New York in July.

It will be the Northern Irishman's first fight at the MGM Grand Arena.

"I said Carl had the ability to go all the way, and certain people in the game laughed," McGuigan told Radio 5 live.

"It's childish and frivolous to now laugh at them because it's pointless. We just want to win."

Frampton's points victory in July was the first defeat of Santa Cruz's career, with several publications including Ring Magazine and ESPN naming Frampton as the fighter of 2016.

"The pinnacle of the fight game is headlining the strip and that's what Carl is doing," said McGuigan, whose son Shane is Frampton's trainer.

'Carl can knock him out'

In the build-up to Frampton's first fight with Santa Cruz, the majority of US boxing pundits backed the Mexican to continue his undefeated career, only for the Belfast fighter to stun the three-weight world champion.

Frampton and McGuigan both expect Santa Cruz, 28, to be more aggressive this time but think that could work to Frampton's advantage.

"Although he's taller than me, I'm going to be the bigger man on the night and he can't bully me," said Frampton.

"That's where he gets his success, he bullies people, but he can't do that to me. I'm hurting him and making him think twice and he's never been in that position before."

McGuigan added: "If Santa Cruz wants to win this fight he's got to put pressure on Carl and he's got to overwhelm him.

"But by doing that he's putting himself in the firing zone and I really do think if he does that then Carl will knock him out."

Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz

Analysis - How good is Santa Cruz?

BBC Radio 5 live boxing correspondent Mike Costello

Santa Cruz is a tricky old opponent. We saw him running Carl Frampton close in the first contest. We should remember one of the three judges scored the contest a draw and it was regarded by many as the fight of the year.

Santa Cruz showed in that fight the kind of mettle that had earned him world titles in three different weight divisions across his professional career.

He's won 11 of his 12 world title fights - the Frampton defeat his only one.

He's beaten seven world champions. He's got a typical Mexican style - all-out aggression is what it's based on.

This time around he's got his father very much part of the camp. He was in and out last time because he was receiving treatment for cancer. He says that will have a huge difference because his father will have a better game plan as opposed to his brother, who was in his corner last time.

'It's like Hatton again'

Frampton says he expects about 5,000 fans to make the trip across the Atlantic to support him, with some fans resorting to extreme lengths to fund their journey.

"I know this guy Keith Dallas - he sold his car and bought his wife another car, which wasn't as good, to raise the funds for this trip," said Frampton.

"This is the stuff they're doing - there's a guy coming from Australia to watch the fight as well. It's not easy to get to Las Vegas, it's expensive and it makes me more appreciative of the effort people are putting in to get out here."

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, boxing journalist Steve Bunce said the build-up to the rematch reminded him of the atmosphere surrounding the fights of British former light-welterweight world champion Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas.

Hatton fought three times at the MGM Grand in his career, beating Paulie Malignaggi there in 2008 and losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

Bunce said: "I did those Hatton fights. It's one thing having 2,000 or 3,000 people there like Frank Bruno had, like Lennox Lewis had, but to be there for Ricky, the big Ricky fights, everywhere you turned and looked there were British fans. And that's something Carl will get."

'He's a beast at featherweight'

Explaining Frampton's decision to move up from super-bantamweight, where he had unified the IBF and WBA titles by beating Briton Scott Quigg, McGuigan said his fighter had reached a point where it was becoming "miserable" for him to make the 122lb weight limit.

"The comfort at which he makes the weight now and how he can rehydrate and get stronger, he's a beast at 126lbs," he added.

Frampton echoed his manager's view, stating he felt in "better spirits" at featherweight, having "hated" fight week at super-bantamweight.

"It was a slog but now I'm enjoying it more and you're going to see even better performances because of that," he said.

"I think I can go up another weight too - become a world champion at that weight and I go down as a three-weight world champion, the only ever Irishman to do that, and then you're talking about the hall of fame and that's a big deal."

'I can't wait to retire'

Frampton said he has no plans "to go on forever" and that he "can't wait" to retire, to the consternation of his trainer and manager.

"When it's time to call it a day, I'll call it a day," he said.

"My close-knit team will say the same, if they see me sliding or not improving any more then it's time to get out and get out on top.

"When it's time to call it a day, I'll be happy to support the next big name coming through - hopefully it's another Belfast lad coming to Las Vegas and I'll be right behind him."

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