Thanks everybody for joining us. What an exciting conference call we have today. We’re talking about Carl Frampton versus Leo Santa Cruz, the rematch, as well as Dejan Zlaticanin versus Mikey Garcia.
I just want to mention that SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING is Saturday, January 28 live on SHOWTIME. It’s a doubleheader presented in association with Premier Boxing Champions and live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Tickets are still on sale for that event which is promoted by Ringstar Sports in association with Cyclone Promotions and TGB Promotions and available at AXS.com
Before we get into the fighters and what they have to say about the event, I would like to introduce Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports to talk a little bit more about the matchups.
Thank you Kelly. SHOWTIME again is continuing to deliver the biggest fights in the sport, the most important fights and the most meaningful fights. Coming off the December show in which we saw the featherweight title change hands with Abner Mares taking the title and a stellar show this weekend with a title unification fight, or at least an attempted title unification, and the emergence of a potential young breakout star in Gervonta Davis.
We’re thrilled to keep the momentum going with another stellar card. Our co-feature, it is a cliché but it is absolutely true, this is a co-feature that really has the ability to stand on its own as a championship fight.
Dejan is a young man who won his world title in SHOWTIME, one of the most avoided fighters in the lightweight division, a guy no one wants to fight, no one other than of course Mikey Garcia who needs no introduction, has an A plus resume and is a pound for pound regular.
This is a great, stellar matchup of the all-out aggression and power of Zlaticanin versus the boxer-puncher in Mikey. It’s an intriguing fight. And our main event, truly needs no introduction, for me the Fight of the Year. After a title unification last summer, Carl Frampton moving up in weight to take on Leo Santa Cruz.
It was, no exaggeration to say it was all out action from the first bell to the last. And having spoken to both of these fighters, we don’t expect anything else. We’ve got a stellar SHOWTIME EXTREME card as well which is highlighted by another featherweight world title fight in Lee Selby making his defense. And other very strong supporting parts as well. We’re very happy that this fight is headlining in Vegas. It’s the kind of stage that this fight, this card deserves.
And it’s particularly great to see the featherweights back headlining in Vegas. It really harkens back to the golden era of Barrera and Morales and Pacquiao and Marquez when they were headlining Vegas. And I’m glad these very talented fighters are getting the spotlight.
Okay, thanks Stephen. We’re going to lead with the main event for this conference call. This fight was a 2016 Fight of the Year nominee by every outlet.
The first one took place in July at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and now they’re going across the country to fight in none other than the boxing capital of the world, Las Vegas.
First I’m going to introduce Leo Santa Cruz with a record of 32-1-1, with 18 knockouts. He fights out of Los Angeles, California and he’s a former world champion at 118, 122 and 126. Leo, would you like to make a couple of comments?
Leo Santa Cruz
Thank you very much for your introduction. I really appreciate it. I’m really happy. I’m happy to step back in the ring for the rematch. After the first fight, when I heard the decision and I got my first defeat, there was nothing in my head other than the rematch.
I wanted the rematch because I knew I made some mistakes. I knew I wasn’t the best I could perform so I said I could really improve on things and I think I could get the victory next time. So, in that time, nothing has been in my head other than the rematch and I was very anxious and motivated to give another great show.
The first fight was a great fight for the fans that I love and I’m just happy and motivated to go out there and give another great fight and make it even better than the first one. Thank you.
Thanks Leo. And now I’m going to introduce Carl Frampton. Mr. Frampton is 23-0, with 14 knockouts. He comes from Belfast, Northern Island. He’s a former world champion at 122 pounds, making him a two-time world champion.
He also became the first Irish fighter to win a world title at multiple weight classes when he beat Santa Cruz in July to win his featherweight world title. Carl, a couple words?
I just wanted to start off with what Leo said. I think that this is going to be another great fight. I think the last time it was talked about as one of the fights of the year. And I think our styles just gelled really well together. I don’t think it’s going to be any different this time.
Whatever happens it’s going to be competitive up until it ends but I think that, what I’ve been doing this time in training camp, I feel like a fully-fledged featherweight. I was going into the unknown the last time I fought Leo, my first title fight at featherweight.
But I feel like I’ve developed featherweight now, much stronger, bigger and punching harder. And I feel like at the end I’m going to get the win.
Leo, how has training camp been different this time around with your dad being there the entire time now that he’s feeling better?
L. Santa Cruz
In the first camp, I didn’t have my dad with me. And me and my brother were doing something that we thought was going to be a good game plan.
But, you know, my dad is smart when it comes to that. My dad is the one who’s always watching boxing. He’s always watching different styles of different boxers and he knows how to fight like different styles.
And this time having him there in the gym with me, he’s telling me specifically like what punches I have to throw with Frampton, how to fight him and stuff like that. And he’s always there pressuring me. He pushes me and gives me that extra motivation and everything.
I’m pushing myself harder to train, to go out there and give it my all. We’re going to go with a great game plan to go out there and try to beat Frampton.
You know that he’s always there telling me how to beat him and now that I have him there, we’re going to have no problems when we get in the fight. Versus Abner Mares was one game plan and once we got over there, my dad wanted me to fight him a different way.
Since my dad wasn’t here, we didn’t come with a big game plan. We had one thing, we had trained one thing with my brother and then when my dad got there, he wanted us to train a different way. So we got confused. We got a little bit frustrated.
This time we are going to be, we’re going to go perfectly fine and we’re not going to have any problems.
How much better mentally have you been in this camp with your dad being there? And you’re not having that weight of his health hanging over your head?
L. Santa Cruz
Big, big difference. In the first camp, I was, I think I was worrying more about him, about his health, how he was doing, if he was going to be able to go to the fight with me or if he was even going to wake up the day after tomorrow to be there with us because cancer is a very dangerous disease that you could be here with us then today or tomorrow you won’t be here with us.
Now thank God the cancer is in remission, in complete remission. But he’s doing a lot better and so my mind is clear and my mind, the only thing on my mind is the fight. That I want to go out there and do a great fight for all the fans. And hopefully it will be another Fight of the Year.
What would you say, maybe what ways could you improve?
L. Santa Cruz
I’m going to go and fight the same way. But no, I could change it up. I like to go out there and make it exciting. That’s what the fans love. The fans love for a fighter to go toe to toe in a fight. And that’s why I always try, that’s why people say I only fight one way.
But the reality is that I could fight any way. I could adopt any way. I could box. I could move. But the truth is I don’t really like moving because I like entertaining the fans because, they go out there to see the great fights, wars, toe to toe.
But then they tell me that at the end of the day, you have to be smart. You have to fight for yourself and go out there and win. And I could do that. I could fight.
For this fight, I’m going to try to do that. I’m going to go out there and try to make it for me to come up with the big dream victory. And I’m going to go out there and everybody is going to be surprised at what I could do.
How do you keep yourself on an even keel from being excited to happy and looking forward perhaps to the BWAA banquet and getting the awards, and all that kind of stuff but also knowing that it would kind of really be depressing to have to have to kind of go to pick up your 2016 Fighter of the Year award if you’re coming off a loss to Leo Santa Cruz?
Yes, I’m not really thinking about that to be honest. I think that it might affect other fighters given all these awards and put pressure on them. And certainly, it puts a little bit more pressure on me especially going straight into the New Year in 2017 with such a difficult fight.
But I have said since I tuned professional is that I perform best under pressure. And what these awards are doing is simply filing your head full of confidence. I want to go out and prove that these awards are justified, that I deserved to be the Fighter of the Year last year.
I’ll have to take off two thirds in 2017. I’m going straight into the deep end. A rematch with a three-weight champion in Leo Santa Cruz is justified and that 2016 wasn’t a one off. I think 2017 potentially can be better than last year.
How do you get yourselves mentally prepared for that kind of battle again? Can you fight at that level and that kind of veracity once again knowing how tough of an appointment Leo is and how hard that first fight was?
Yes, I think so. I think once you’ve done it once, you always know you can do it again. And I was kind of, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, really. If I’m being completely honest with you, I don’t think I could have fought at that pace at 122. Fighting at 122 was taking something from my performance.
I just felt like a better man at featherweight. So it was a bit of a risk for me to fight so hard from the start but I did and I was still punching at the end of the fight and I feel like the last round was close but I feel like I may have nicked the last round.
Once you do it once, you have it in your head you can do it again. And there are a few adjustments that I want to make in this fight to make things a little bit easier for myself. I’ve been trying different things out in the gym but I’m prepared for whatever Leo has to throw at me. I understand this is going to be a difficult fight.
But if I make that adjustments that have been, I’ve been working on in the gym, I think that I can make the fight a little bit more comfortable for myself.
If I have to go into the trenches, I’m going to do it. I’ll do whatever it takes to get this one.
I think with our styles it’s going to be another rumble. I think with Leo’s style in particular, he’s just, a typical Mexican fighter, a real warrior, non-stop, and he just tries to overwhelm opponents. And his style just works against a lot of people. And it can work against lesser opponents.
But I’ve got something different. I’ve got a lot of grit and determination. And I can give it back as good as the give it to me. So what I’m expecting, again, another exciting fight. I think that if we fight ten times, they’re always going to be good fights.
Leo are you prepared to do that again? And how do you get yourself psyched up for that kind of really hard, rough fight?
L. Santa Cruz
Yes, I know that too. I am excited, because I love to give the fight. I love to give fights that the fans love, that they are always talking about, that they say was a great fight and everything. I get more motivated to go in the gym and train hard. The only thing I do is train harder, train harder and just motivate myself.
And when I’m in the gym training I do that extra push. Once I go up there I can do the same thing in doing the 12 rounds, a hard 12 rounds. If you train hard in the gym and you give it your best, once you go out there in the ring, you’re going to go out there and do the same thing.
The same thing. You’re going to come out like the things you’ve been working out and I have it in my head that’s how I always prepare my fights. I want to go out there and make the fans happy. I give a great fight for all the fans and at the end of the day, when I hear them talking about the fight, how great it was, that’s my reward. That’s my reward of going out there and preparing all this time.
I want to go out there and try to make it a better fight than the first one. Make it a rumble. And I think what I’ve heard from him is that he’d not going to stay this time inside with me. I think he’s going to try to move more and everything.
So in that case, like if he’s going to change it up, I could change it up too. I could box. I could stay on the inside. I could not lunge myself and everything and do things that are going to benefit him. I’m not going to fight his fight.
But once we’re up there in the ring, we’re going to see how he’s fighting, how we’re doing and my corner’s going to be telling me go on the inside and put pressure on him or just to box him and stay on the outside and reach. So, but, whatever he brings, I’m going to bring and if he wants to make it an action fight, I’ll make it an action fight.
We’ve got to be smart out there. And I’m going to go out there and of course I want to please the fans and I want them to go home happy. But at the end of the day I’m going to go out there and do what I think is best for me, what’s going to make me win the fight.
And if I have to box, I’m going to box. If I have to put pressure on him and everything, I’ll do whatever I have to do to get the win.
Carl do you still think you’ll feel like the A side when you walk into the ring with so many fans walking over to support you?
I think that in the arena we’re expecting, we’re probably expecting a little bit more than Leo from ticket, just from ticket sales and the feedback we’re getting back from the arena which is a credit that I support really. Those travel far and wide to see me.
And I would say it’s very expensive to get to Las Vegas from Belfast. And I’m expecting Leo to have more support this time in Vegas than he had in New York. Mostly, you can drive from L. A. to Vegas so he’ll bring a lot more support.
The atmosphere in New York was incredible. I think again it’s going to be even better. I think here’s potentially about 4000 coming from back home, Northern Ireland, the south of Ireland, England and Scotland and Wales coming out to support me. And I think 4000 will be sound like 8000 so it’s going to be a raucous atmosphere, that’s for sure.
Do you worry about being on the wrong end of a poor decision in Las Vegas though?
No, I don’t think you can. If I approach a fight and go into a fight thinking about those sorts of things then it’s not the right frame of mind and the right attitude to take. And I’m just hoping and I’m pretty confident that the judging will be fair. And I feel that it will be fair in Vegas.
It was a good fight, in New York. And it was a very exciting fight and I’m hoping that we get the fans out here in Las Vegas. And I’m confident we will.
Okay, thank you. My first question is for Carl. Carl, do you think that Leo’s tendency to want to braw plays into your hands?
Well potentially it does. I’m a fighter. If you look at me and my stature, I’m a short, stocky guy and people just look at me and just automatically think this guy’s going to be a brawler. But I prefer people to come to me.
And I prefer to box on the outside and I’m being honest. I can mix it up on the inside if I have to but I think that right through my career, I’m a professional. I’ve always preferred guys to come to me and Leo just keeps coming all night. So I think his sort of style, it’s an exciting style but I think that it’s tailor made for mine.
I’m ready for whatever style that comes from Leo. If I’m being honest, I think he’s trying to throw me a dummy. I don’t think he’s going to try to box at all. I think he’s just going to try and even put more pressure on him to come more relentless than he was the last time.
I think that’s their game plan and I think he won’t try to box me. I think that, I honestly think that that’s a mistake from their team because it makes the fight much easier for me.
People go to the body all the time. I’m ready for whatever it takes. You know, I feel like I’m developing. If he goes to the body, it gives me a chance to hit him to the head. So it doesn’t really matter.
I’m expecting a tough fight. He went to the body a lot the last time also and though I believe I’ll have an answer for anything that he shows up with.
Do you feel good about fighting in this venue as opposed to the first time being in New York?
L. Santa Cruz
Yes, of course. I feel more comfortable there in Vegas. I fought there many times. I think six times I fought there. And I fought on big cards. And there was a lot of people and that’s what I love. I love to hear the people cheer on for me and scream and motivate me. They give me that extra push.
When you don’t have folks cheering for you, like it happened there over in New York, it puts pressure on you and everything. I think it brings you a little bit down I guess but that’s nothing. But I am very comfortable and happy for the fight to be here in Vegas because it’s close to L.A. and I know a lot of people are going to come to support me and everything.
But also I know Carl Frampton’s going to have a lot of support because you know, they’re going to take this as a great advance to come in, the people from Ireland and everything, England. And they’re going to come here to get to know Vegas and take that as their vacation or something like that.
So I know he’s going to have a lot of crowd too and then it’s going to be, I hope that it’s fair. There won’t be any advantages for me or for him. So I hope it’s 50/50 and that we both have, get the same respect and everything from both sides.
Do you concede at all that the cards in New York were fair? Or do you think that you won the fight or that it should have been a draw?
L. Santa Cruz
To me, I hadn’t watched the fight. I barely watched it this past week. I barely watched it and the fight I thought was a fairly close fight. I thought the fight was really, really close. It could have gone either way maybe it could have gone my way too like by one point or two.
But I don’t know if you see it that way, but in my opinion I think the fight was pretty close. It could have gone either way. And it was just a really hard entertaining fight that, in my opinion it was pretty close. It could have gone a draw or maybe even a point. It could have gone my way for a point or two.
Carl, with this victory, can you talk about the reception that you got when you went back home and are you even bigger now?
Yes, obviously, it was a big deed to become the first ever Northern Ireland man to win world titles in two different divisions. And I’ve always had great support from back home. But this time, you know, we went back and had to go to a reception that was maybe 6000 people to welcome me back home.
And yes with each fight, I seem to be getting more fans from back home and obviously I’m very, very grateful for that but I think a lot of credit has to go with the guys, like Leo Santa Cruz because people back home, they understand boxing. They want to see me involved and fight with great fighters.
So I think the fans enjoyed the last fight especially the ones, the ones that couldn’t make it out, they enjoyed watching it on T.V. And I think it’s important for me to continue to fight fighters of this caliber for the rest of my career.
Closing comments for Carl and Leo?
I’ll just keep it short and sweet. I just think that again it’s going to be a great fight against two great fighters. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the win and, you know, two guys with a lot to live up to here especially coming off the back of our last fight.
And I’m sure Leo will say the same that no matter what happens, this is going to be a great fight and one not to miss.
L. Santa Cruz
Yes, my message to all the fans, to the media, thank you for making this fight. And I just want to let you know that this s going to be another great fight no matter who the winner is.
We’re doing this for our fans. We’re going out there to give the best fight and we’ll leave everything in the ring to make a great fight. And I know this fight is going to be even better than the first one.
So I encourage other people to watch it live in Vegas or they can watch it on SHOWTIME. And they don’t want to miss this fight because we’re both fighters that believe we’re going to go out there and get the win. And that makes it a bigger fight.
So I just want to tell you guys, don’t miss the fight. And thank you for all the support.
Thanks, I’m going to introduce the co-main event. First up, he’s 35-0 with 29 knockouts. He’s trained by his brother Robert out of Riverside California and they are hailing from Baja, California.
He has won world titles in two weight divisions and he had recently returned after a long layoff to stop former champion Elio Rojas in July and now he has the opportunity to fight for a title. So Mikey, you want to make a couple comments?
Well I’m very happy to be here. Very excited. Very grateful for the opportunity that’s been given. I’m ready to get back and get back what’s mine and get back where I belong. I think this is a wonderful fight and I think January 28 is only the beginning of this next stage of my career which will be the best stage of my career.
Next up is the champion. He’s 22-0 with 15 knockouts. He is the undefeated lightweight world champion. And he hails from Montenegro. He’s a WBC lightweight world champion..
Became the first boxing world champion ever from Montenegro when he won his title in June of 2016. So without further ado, Dejan, would you like to make a couple of comments?
I’m very excited because I’m fighting on this big stage at MGM Grand. That’s the mecca of boxing and against a very good and famous fighter like Mikey. And I prepare very good for this fight. I believe I will be victorious on the 28th.
Just what has it been like, the reaction at home for him when he won his world championship?
I’m famous there. They recognize me, everyone from kids of five years to all the elders. Everyone knows me. But the people who are representing sports ministers, they might think that they already know what this means for them. And for every country, not just for little countries. This is a very big result.
Can he just explain his rationale, his reasons for giving Garcia the shot so quickly?
I like to fight the best. I don’t feel good when I win someone maybe he’s not the best, or too good a fighter. I want to fight the best and to fight dangerous opponents and to test myself every time to be better and better.
Do you think that the one fight against Rojas after your long layoff was enough to get you ready to fight such a highly regarded opponent like Dejan Zlaticanin for the title?
I think I was ready to fight for the title even after the layoff on my first fight back. We obviously were not able to secure a title fight and I had to get through Rojas. But I think the Rojas fight showed everybody that I didn’t lose a beat. I was right where I was before the layoff.
The styles that Rojas presented versus the style that Dejan presents is very different so it’s not like I took that as a preparation for this. It just means that I have to get back to the ring. And after I got that one taken care of, we were looking for a world title fight. And Dejan was available and willing to give me a title shot. And we are taking this opportunity.
What’s your scouting report, so to speak, on your opponent?
He’s a very good, aggressive fighter with dangerous power. He’s always coming in looking for the knockout, looking for big shots, trying to land his big, overhand left, right hand to the body. Just, he’s very good at what he does.
Now, I think that that’s a dangerous opponent but that’s the fight that will give me the most recognition. When I got guys in front of me, just like he said, if he’s got a guy in front of him that’s easy, doesn’t mean the same, the victory won’t carry the same value.
So when you beat someone that’s a dangerous and like undefeated world champion like himself, that gives me more credibility and I just feel that it’s a much getter victory that vying for a vacant title.
Characterize what you see in your opponent’s fights. How he sets up those punches and what you need to be prepared for?
Well he seems to come forward. I mean that overhand left. And he’s been pretty successful with it. He’s had a lot of success with that overhand left. Uses the right to get inflows, get the range. Measure his opponents. And if he gets them, with that straight left, overhand left, he’s powerful with that. It seems to be his favorite punch.
And it’s worked for him. So that’s something I’ve got to be careful for. We’ve been trained for that. But he’s also always very aggressive just physically because mentally he doesn’t really step back. He doesn’t really seem to ever get discouraged. He’s always coming forward. Always has the champion’s mindset of winning.
This is the way a champion should be and I respect him for being like that because he is a world champion. He’s not a paper champion. He’s not somebody that just gave us attitude. He’s earned it. He’s definitely earned his world championship status.
Mikey, do you think you’re fighting the best guy at this weight?
He’s the world champion in the world 135-pound division. He’s undefeated. He’s definitely one of the best guys in the division to do that with Linares and Flanagan.
All these champions have done great and he’s definitely done great on his own. So I think he’s probably the most dangerous of all of them.
He’s definitely going to be the biggest guy that I face. As far as a natural lightweight, yes, he’s probably the most dangerous in that aspect. He’s the strongest, biggest guy that I faced in my career. I was fighting a featherweight followed by two featherweights.
Even even though we fought in my last fight 140 pounds, fought the former featherweight champion in Rojas myself. So it wasn’t like I was fighting a huge 140. I was fighting a guy that used to be the same size as me at featherweight and at 130 pounds. But now I’m fighting a naturally big, 135-pound world champion.
How is Dejan treated in his country even though he’s a new champion? How is he treated in relation to the long time stars like the soccer players and the basketball players?
People ask me because I’m first champion and they know that it’s something special. And after this fight I believe I won’t just be famous in my country, but I’ll be famous worldwide.
Does it offend you that he may be talking about other fights? Do you feel like he’s looking past you?
I don’t know if that’s respect or disrespect. I want to get in the ring and to show everything but that’s not good for him if he doubts my left hand because it will break off his head. He can’t think about it. He needs to win this fight first then to talk about that. But this is real life. This is not movies. You can’t go, you need to first to jump then to fly.
Dejan, do you think you’re going to knock Mikey out?
Yes. It’s a 12 round fight and I think I will catch him with a good shot and he’ll be knocked out.
Dejan, do you think Mikey is the best fighter you’ve faced?
He’s the most famous fighter, that’s true, but I can’t talk about that before I get in the ring with him because I fought big names like Rick Burns, Petr Petrov are really good fighters. And Redkach. And we can talk about if he’s dangerous or not when I’m not in the ring with him. So when we finish the fight I can talk about this.
Do you have any level of concern about if the fights does go to the scorecards because you’re coming to the United States?
No, I’m not. I think there will be fair judging.
Do you feel overlooked even though you’re the defending champion going in?
Maybe he’s looking like that but that would be a big mistake for him. He’s a big name here at USA but I’m not. I’m champion but people don’t know me here yet. But he’ll know me good after January 28.
I want to tell everyone that Mikey never fought the fighter like me with big punches like mine. And I’m very durable and I am patient. I’m waiting for my chance.
Mikey, he said he was going to knock you out. I’m sure you don’t hear that going into every fight but what are your thoughts on that?
That shows his confidence and that shows, that it will be a great fight. Like I said before, I don’t want a guy that’s just going to go in there and take a beating. I want somebody that I can push to the next level, somebody that can really test me and I think Dejan is the perfect man to do that.
What are your thoughts on him saying that you’re making a mistake talking about other fights?
I definitely have to do this my first and this is the main focus. But whenever I get asked about a future fight, I have to answer and have to try, with some logic. And if everything goes well in this fight against Dejan, of course we’re going to move forward and look at what’s available. And if we can unify titles or defend the title against a well-known name or maybe move up in weight class, things like that, you have to start, planning the future.
But the fight that’s most important is in front of me which is Dejan Zlaticanin and I don’t think there’s any problem with that. It’s not going to affect the way I perform. It’s not going to affect the way I prepare for this fight. My main focus is January 28 and then after that we’ll move on to whatever the future has for us.