Santa Cruz dethrones Frampton by majority decision
Leo Santa Cruz exacted revenge as he stripped Carl Frampton of his world featherweight title by majority decision.
In an absorbing rematch in Las Vegas on Saturday, two judges scored the fight 115-113 in favour of Santa Cruz, with the other scoring it 114-114.
After he was dethroned by Frampton in New York, Santa Cruz wrestled back the belt as he handed the former his first professional defeat before the Mexican quickly promised to deliver on a trilogy post-bout.
"I wanted revenge," he said. "I worked hard. Carl Frampton is a great fighter. I used my distance, but I like to give my fans a great fight and I'm sorry I didn't do that. Now let's make it a third fight."
Frampton - 23-0 prior to Saturday - arrived in the United States with plenty of support, with a strong contingent of more than 5,000 Northern Irish fans making the trip from Belfast and helping provide an electric atmosphere.
The 29-year-old was also buoyed by receiving The Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year award for 2016. He took out the prestigious gong after beating the previously undefeated Scott Quigg to unify the WBA and IBF super-bantamweight titles, then stepping up in weight to beat Santa Cruz, who had also not lost before that fight.
And the fight lived up to the hype, with both men going toe-to-toe as the clash erupted in the opening round.
The all-action contest continued and there was a nervy moment for Frampton in the fourth round when he fell to the canvas but it was more a case of getting tangled up and losing his footing.
Frampton threw his punches and attempted to weave his way around Santa Cruz and while there was little to separate the two boxers, the former did enough to silence the Irish travellers.
"I want to apologise for the traveling support, but the better man deserved it," said Frampton.
"I'm gutted. I'm gutted. He told me what he was going to do. Sometimes I felt the brawler was outboxing the boxer. It's 1-1, we have to do it again."