While we celebrate all things Australia this week, the eyes of the entire boxing world will be on Las Vegas and a championship double header event guaranteed to deliver plenty of action.
This Sunday afternoon AEST, Premier Boxing Champions’ next instalment brings us the much anticipated rematch between WBA Featherweight champion Carl Frampton and former champion Leo Santa Cruz, and Mikey Garcia’s attempt at dethroning new WBC lightweight champion, Dejan Zlaticanin.
In Garcia’s second bout from a two-year hiatus caused by a contractual dispute, he will challenge Dejan Zlaticanin for the Montenegrin’s newly won WBC lightweight title.
The unheralded Zlaticanin is seen in some quarters as a minor roadblock in Mikey Garcia’s way to a third divisional title, but Garcia’s camp will be careful not to underestimate the diminutive European.
In a similar set of circumstances, albeit against an opponent not at Garcia’s level, Zlaticanin travelled to Scotland to fight local fighter Ricky Burns knocking him down on route to a split decision victory and in his latest fight captured the WBC lightweight title knocking out Franklin Mamani in three rounds.
Garcia on the other hand has soundly beaten every opponent that has stood opposite him in the professional ranks including knocking out Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez, who he beat to win the WBO Junior Middleweight crown. That victory made Garcia a two-weight world champion having defeating Orlando Salido for the WBO Featherweight title back in 2013.
Zlaticanin is confident his brawling power punching style will take the wind out of the American’s sails and cause a major upset, but he has not stepped into the ring with a technician the level of Mikey Garcia and on as big a stage as the bright lights of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Expect the powerful Montenegrin to be dangerous early, but it will only take a handful of rounds for Garcia to establish his reach, speed and skill advantage and become a three weight division champion with a stoppage in the middle rounds.
Prediction: Garcia TKO Round 6
The main event of the PBC show features an anticipated rematch of one of the fights of 2016 with Carl Frampton (23-0, 14KO) defending his WBA Featherweight title against former champion Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 18KO).
Frampton, 2016 Fighter of the Year award winner, defeated Mexico’s Santa Cruz by majority decision in July of last year in his first fight at featherweight after reigning as the IBF and WBA Super Bantamweight champion.
It was a close fight where many expected Santa Cruz to use his considerable height and reach advantage to keep Frampton at bay, but the Northern Irishman managed to goad Santa Cruz into an inside fight negating the Mexican’s physical advantages to take the decision.
Santa Cruz, in typical Mexican fashion, is not afraid of a slugfest but needs to keep his emotions in check and use his height and reach to his advantage to keep Frampton on the outside. With his father’s cancer now in remission Leo Santa Cruz has stated there will be no distractions in the rematch as he is fully focused on his preparations for what could be the defining bout of his career.
A win for Santa Cruz opens up the likelihood of a trilogy bout, creating the type of rivalry both boxers need to propel them to superstardom, while a loss leaves the Mexican with much less lucrative options to pursue in the future.
For his part Frampton appears to already be looking toward the future. He has stated he hopes to next face Welsh IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby in a unification bout before a lucrative fight against super featherweight superstar Vasyl Lomachenko.
While Santa Cruz believes he will be better prepared this time it all depends on how well he can stick to using his reach and keep Frampton at bay. Easier said than done with Santa Cruz penchant for getting into a slugfest and Frampton’s own skills so expect a similar bout to the first one with Frampton winning a close decision and moving into the next stage of boxing stardom.
Prediction: Frampton Unanimous Decision