Carl Frampton could land a dream world title shot this summer after Leo Santa Cruz revealed that he would happily defend his title against the Belfast boxer.
WBC super-bantamweight holder Santa Cruz insists he would have no problem travelling to Northern Ireland to take on Frampton – provided he first wins his March 8 defence against former champion Cristian Mijares.
Frampton has his own priorities, with the former European champion facing Hugo Cazares at the Odyssey Arena on April 4 .
If he passes that eliminator, then Santa Cruz sees no reason why the pair should not fight later in the year.
“That’s no problem, I’m willing to fight him anywhere,” said Santa Cruz –undefeated in 27 fights (one draw) with 15 knockouts.
“For me, it doesn’t really matter where the fight is, as long as my manager and promoter are okay with it then I’m willing to go wherever, whether that is in Ireland or over here [in the USA].”
Despite missing out on a crack at the IBF title – held by former victim Kiko Martinez – Barry McGuigan has expertly maneuvered Frampton into pole position for a WBC tilt if he gets past veteran Cazares on the huge Odyssey show in April.
Humble Mexican Santa Cruz stated that ‘The Jackal’ has been on his radar for a while.
“Frampton is a great opponent, he’s really strong and comes forward, he fights in my style and I think if I face him it will be a great fight for me,” he added.
“He has great power and I could see a fight of the year or at least a fight of the night because we both come forward and go for it so it would be a real battle.”
Santa Cruz (25) realised a lifelong ambition in August last year when a third-round knockout of Victor Terrazas earned him the coveted WBC strap.
He puts every victory down to a strong work ethic and intense strength and conditioning training before every bout.
“When I was growing up it was the belt I always wanted to win, and when I got the opportunity I took advantage of it and all my hard work paid off,” he said.
“I didn’t think I would beat Terrazas so easily but I owe it all to my training because I trained hard for that fight and we really wanted that WBC title, it was my dream belt.”
Santa Cruz admits that he is not overly familiar with the work of Frampton’s nemesis Scott Quigg, but affirmed that he will engage with any elite fighter in the 122-pound weight division so long as promotional politics don’t get in the way.
“I want to fight the best champions and beat the best,” he said.
“Guillermo Rigondeaux and Kiko Martinez are great opponents and if I can unify the belts then great.
“It’s up to my manager and promoter and whatever they say then I’m willing to step up.”
Preparing for the threat of quality operator Mijares is the champion’s only current focus but success in that contest will see Frampton primed for his world title opportunity.
“I’ve spoken to Golden Boy about the fight with Mijares and we haven’t really talked that much about the next one but we will sit down and see what’s next when the time comes,” said Santa Cruz.
“I‘m not scared of anybody, I’m here to fight whoever the fans want and if they want me to fight Frampton or whoever else then I’m happy to fight them.”
Photograph: Russell Pritchard