Carl Frampton became a two-weight world champion after defeating Leo Santa Cruz by a majority points decision in Brooklyn to claim the WBA featherweight title.
The former super-bantamweight champion (23-0 KO 14), fighting for the first time at featherweight, produced a superb performance to inflict the first defeat of Santa Cruz’s career and was declared the clear winner by two judges, with the third ruling it as a draw.
By doing so, Frampton, who made the decision to move up in weight in February after unifying the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight titles with victory over Scott Quigg, claimed the belt his manager Barry McGuigan won in 1985.
The Northern Irishman promised to prove that “he was the best featherweight in world” in the build-up to the bout at the Barclays Center and he did not disappoint in the early rounds, rocking Santa Cruz onto the ropes with a series of powerful, sharp punches.
Frampton continued to land the more effective punches, but Santa Cruz, who was making the second defence of the title he won in August 2015, eventually settled down and responded with productive sixth and seventh rounds.
Santa Cruz (32-1-1 KO18), a three-weight world champion, dished out some lethal combinations, but was unable to capitalise as Frampton absorbed the punishment before regaining the initiative in the following two rounds.
Frampton continued to look assured until the closing stages of the fight, when he was tested by a powerful overhand right from Santa Cruz in the 10th round.
But a late surge from Santa Cruz was not enough. Despite judge Guido Cavalleri scoring the contest 114-114, Frank Lombardi (116-112) and Tom Schreck (117-111) ruled in favour of Frampton, sparking joyous celebrations in the ring.