In all of the previews for Carl Frampton's fight with Leo Santa Cruz - the Northern Irish boxer was the heavy underdog. Especially in the America media, who seemed to think that Frampton was just another tough European kid.
Indeed, one American boxing site - the Ring - had boxing insiders chose who would win. They went overwhelmingly in favour of Santa Cruz 22-5. Admitedly, the editor of the Ring was one of the five who went for Frampton. I guess he must have bragging rights in the office.
Wow! 22-5 against Frampton on the @ringmagazine predictions for #SantaCruzFrampton? I'm one of the 5 & I'm sticking to it - Frampton #boxing
— Tom Gray (@Tom_Gray_Boxing) July 29, 2016
The Ring called it a career defining performance by Frampton, who won by showing off his versatility.
Leo Santa Cruz tried his best to lure Frampton into a brawl but Frampton, a former unified champion at 122 pounds, boxed and blasted and presented a style that Santa Cruz, taller and longer, was never able to solve.
Frampton's less than impressive US debut last year was mentioned, and the writer Mitch Abrahamson acknowledged the Belfast fighter's improvement since that decision victory over Alejandro Gonzalez.
Bad Left Hook was full of praise. For Frampton, for Santa Cruz, for the crowd:
It was a matchup of unbeaten fighters in their prime, promising to be a true main event. It was. Tonight in front of a crowd of just around 9,000 that sounded like a crowd three times that size.
The live guide from BLH is particularly entertaining, and you can see the passion of Scott Christ bursting out of the words. There was never more than a three point lead according to Christ - who judged the fight a draw:
I LOVE IT. BIG SHOT HURTS SANTA CRUZ AND THE CROWD EXPLODES!
USA Today proclaims that Carl Frampton is now well on his way to making it big in the US. They branded the fight "a savage affair", and they seemed taken aback at the level of noise generated by the Irish fans for Frampton.
The fast paced fight impressed Mike Coppinger, and he was proclaiming it the fight of the year. He praised Santa Cruz for never stopping coming forward despite being pelted with shots, and the 160 punches thrown in the second round was wonderful:
This night was about the arrival of Frampton, though, the next U.K. star to announce his arrival stateside. His U.S. debut was inauspicious, a decision over Alejandro Gonzalez in July when the champ was shockingly dropped twice in the opening round.
Neither Frampton nor Santa Cruz had ever faced an opponent like one another before. It’s impossible to tell just how truly great a fighter is until they brush up against someone who meets their equal.
And it’s now clear that Frampton is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
The claim that it was the fight of the year wasn't just limited to USA Today. ESPN writer Dan Rafael also proclaimed it the fight of the year:
Every single report on the fight describes the fight as savage, or that Frampton outslugged Santa Cruz - while also pointing out how magnificent the crowd were through the fight.
It was an eye-opening fight for a lot of the American media, most of whom made reference to promoter Lou diBella saying that Frampton is now among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Rafael wants them to have that touted re-match, and says that they can become intense rivals for years:
Like those Mexican legends (Barrera and Morales), perhaps Frampton and Santa Cruz will develop a similar rivalry because both embraced the idea of a rematch.
And what great fights they can make.
We wouldn't say no to that.