Carl Frampton looks set to fight in a ‘mini Belfast’ when he defends his WBA Featherweight World title against Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas on January 28.
‘The Jackal’ took loads of fans to his first clash against Santa Cruz in New York at the end of July - but Frampton expects more supporters will travel for his rematch with Santa Cruz.
And Frampton has warned Leo Santa Cruz he will be taking on Britain’s best supported boxer in January, with at least 4,000 fans heading to Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas is obviously a bit closer to home for Leo and I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of fans.
“But I’m bringing at least 4,000 from the UK. Right now, I’m the most well-supported fighter in the UK. It’s a great privilege for me.
“Headlining in New York against a great fighter like Leo Santa Cruz was a dream come true.
“Now I have the opportunity to go to Las Vegas, where Leo has fought a few times.
“It’ll be his first time in the main event there as well and I’m just excited to get out there and feel the buzz of fight week.
“We are aiming to get into Vegas at the start of January so I can get settled in and get used to the surroundings. We got out to New York early for the first fight and we will do that again for this one,” he added.
Frampton edged a mixed decision at the Barclays Center in the summer to become the first fighter to beat Santa Cruz - a three-weight world champion - and he expects to have his hand raisd this time around as well.
“I believe he’ll come up with a different game plan but I genuinely believe that I’ll be able to deal with anything he brings to the ring,” said Frampton.
“It’s not going to be an easy fight, but I’ll do whatever it takes to win and I believe I will. Leo Santa Cruz is a tough fighter with a solid chin.
“But I believe that if I hit any featherweight, or super featherweight, with a clean shot, that I can knock them out. If I’m a little bit cleaner, then I could knock him out. But I’ll be prepared to go a hard 12 rounds.
“I believe if I use my brain a little bit more in this one, and don’t get dragged into his fight, that I can win it more convincingly.
“But there will be times in this fight where I’ll just have to bite down and fight for my life.
“He threw over a thousand punches in the fight. He was very fit. He was punching right to the end and you can’t throw much more than a thousand punches in a fight.
“I don’t think he’s going to improve his work-rate.
“I’m prepared for anything. I’m ready to keep this title in Belfast and then I’m going to return here for a show in Belfast in the summer.”
And Santa Cruz believes the presence of his father Jose for the whole build-up to this rematch will make a difference in Vegas and he says his preparations were affected by his father’s battle with cancer before the first fight
“He was with me for the three weeks only before the bout,” says Santa Cruz.
“My dad was going through cancer and I wasn’t 100% focused on my training.”
With his father’s bone cancer now in remission, Santa Cruz says his mentor will be with him “every step of the way” in the build-up to the rematch as he aims to reverse his only career loss.
“We are going to train 100% and my Dad is going to be with me for the whole camp. Preparations are going to go a lot better and while I know it is going to be another tough fight.”