The month of January will end with a bang in Las Vegas with three title fights packed into one event. It all takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 28.
The headline fight will be the rematch between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA featherweight title. Their previous fight was a contender for the 2016 Fight of the Year and ended in an extremely controversial decision.
Before the diminutive duel, lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin will put his belt on the line against fan favorite Mikey Garcia, and Lee Selby and Jonathan Victor Barros will battle for the IBF featherweight title.
Carl Frampton (-137) vs Leo Santa Cruz (+130), Draw (+2000)
The much anticipated rematch between Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KO) and Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KO) took no time at all to schedule. The two fighters, both undefeated at the time, faced off in July 2016 for Santa Cruz’s WBA featherweight title. The fight went the distance, with Frampton narrowly beating Santa Cruz by majority decision.
The outcome was controversial to say the least, and Santa Cruz is eager to avenge his loss. Many commentators and fans believe that he should still be the champ.
Frampton had the full support of the crowd in their last fight. which took place in Brooklyn. But he won’t have that advantage this time around in Vegas. Frampton may be ESPN’s Fighter of the Year in 2016, but Santa Cruz remains the more experienced fighter with more fights to his name and bigger wins. Getting him at +130 feels like a steal in what should be a true 50/50 toss-up.
Pick: Leo Santa Cruz (+130)
Dejan Zlaticanin (+225) vs Mikey Garcia (-220), Draw (+2500)
Also on the card is the first WBC lightweight title defense for Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs) against former two-division titleholder Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs). This will be Zlaticanin’s third fight in the US and by far the biggest fight of his career to date. The Montenegrin is undefeated in his 22 professional fights, but this will be his first time on the big stage.
Garcia is also undefeated in his professional career, winning all of his 35 fights. He came back last year after over two years of inactivity and showed no signs of ring rust, making easy work of Elio Rojas.
We haven’t quite seen what Dejan Zlaticanin is capable of yet. While he may be legit, he hasn’t proved it yet and, in my view, he’s likely a little out of his depth against an opponent like Garcia.
Pick: Mikey Garcia (-220)
Lee Selby (-1200) vs Jonathan Victor Barros (+1000), Draw (+3300)
Lee Selby (23-1, 8 KO) shouldn’t have too tough of a time defending his IBF featherweight title against Jonathan Victor Barros (41-4-1, 22 KO). Barros has some impressive stats at first glance, but he has lost almost every major fight he’s been handed. The vast majority of his wins have been against little-known Argentine fighters.
Selby knows that he’s fighting in the shadow of fellow featherweights Frampton and Santa Cruz. An impressive performance could give him a chance at a title unification bout against the winner.
Pick: Lee Selby (-1200)
Photo credit: “IMG_9167” by Sinn Fein CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.