Last night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, two former world titleholders stepped in the ring and reclaimed their status as world champions on Showtime Championship Boxing.
Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30KOs), a former two-division world champion, won the WBC lightweight title from hard-hitting Dejan Zlaticanin (22-1, 15KOs) and cemented himself as a three-division world champion. Garcia knocked out Zlaticanin in round 3 with an uppercut that left his opponent dazed. He followed it with a crushing right hook that flattened the Montenegro native on his back, rendering him motionless just long enough to make you wonder if he would be okay.
After a few moments Zlaticanin made it to his feet. This was just Garcia’s second fight back from a 36-month layoff caused by litigation between himself and his former promotional company, Top Rank.
Garcia said, “the layoff allowed me to reignite that fire, the passion, and bring back that love for the sport.”
If he decides to stay at 135lbs and unify, he will have to face WBA champion Jorge Linares, who has already called him out, IBF champion Robert Easter Jr., or WBO champion Terry Flanagan.
The main event was a sequel to the 2015 FOTY candidate between Carl Frampton (23-1, 14KOs) and Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18KOs). After losing his featherweight title to Frampton, last year, Santa Cruz promised to win the rematch and force a rubber match. He delivered on that promise and earned a majority decision win over the diminutive man from Belfast by using his jab to keep him on the outside.
“I boxed . . . that was the way to beat Frampton because he is a great fighter, great counter-puncher and if went in he would have counter-punched me all night,” said Santa Cruz.
According to Frampton, “sometimes it felt like the brawler was outboxing the boxer.”
Both fighters want a third test but during the post-fight interview with Jim Gray, Frampton seemed uncertain about the reality of making the fight. “I hope we can do it again,” said Frampton, when asked if he would like to fight Santa Cruz and make it a trilogy.
Since Frampton took the trek across the pond for the first two fights, it’s only right Santa Cruz head to Belfast for round 25.