New York - Challenger Carl Frampton defeated Mexico's Leo Santa Cruz by a majority decision Saturday to claim the WBA featherweight crown and become the first boxer from Northern Ireland to win titles in two divisions.
The 29-year-old Frampton controlled the fight between the two undefeated boxers in the early rounds. He then held on for the win as Santa Cruz gained steam in the middle rounds before the two closed it out by exchanging punches in the middle of the ring as the final bell sounded.
Frampton, who was born in Belfast, improved to 23-0 with 14 knockouts as he had to overcome a height advantage after moving up to fight at a higher weight class.
One judge scored it even, 114-114, while the other two gave it to Frampton 117-111 and 116-112 in front of a crowd of about 8,000 at the Barclays Center arena.
Frampton previously held the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight titles.
Frampton punctuated his impressive early round performance by staggering the champion in the second round with a left hook. His shot counter shot slammed into the right side of Santa Cruz's head, sending the Mexican stumbling backwards into the ropes with 45 seconds left in the round.
Frampton then padded his lead by winning the next three rounds before Santa Cruz turned it on in the sixth, which proved to be one of his best rounds of the fight as he landed some solid combination punches.
But Santa Cruz's inability to score enough points in the early going caught up to him as Frampton did not tire in the later rounds.