The first time Northern Ireland's Carl Frampton boxed in the United States, he traveled to El Paso, Texas, and was greeted quite rudely by Alejandro Gonzalez Jr.
Gonzalez dropped him twice in the first round, though Frampton survived and eventually won a unanimous decision to retain his junior featherweight world title.
Now Frampton is headed back stateside for a much bigger fight -- a move up to the featherweight division to challenge world titleholder Leo Santa Cruz. The fight has been agreed to for some time, but Cyclone Promotions, Frampton's promoter, announced Thursday the open secret that the fight will take place July 30 (Showtime) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where Frampton figures to be the crowd favorite, thanks to a big Irish community, over the Los Angeles-based Mexican, Santa Cruz.
"This is the fight I wanted, and I'm 100 percent confident that the belt will be coming home to Belfast," Frampton said. "It's the [same WBA] belt that my manager, Barry McGuigan, held 30 years ago, and it's fitting that I will have the chance to recapture this title.
"Santa Cruz is a strong and aggressive undefeated champion, but his style is made for me. Myself and my team have been chasing this fight for a long, long time, and that's because we know we have the tools to beat Leo. He throws a lot shots and is a proven operator. It's going to be a great fight."
The 29-year-old Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) is coming off the biggest win of his career. He unified junior featherweight world titles via split decision against England's Scott Quigg on Feb. 27 in Manchester, England, in a huge fight in the United Kingdom. Now Frampton is chasing a title in another weight class, and he is happy to be returning to the U.S.
"It's fantastic to be boxing in New York," Frampton said. "It's an incredible city with a massive Irish community who I hope get behind me for this fight. There'll be a lot of people traveling over from Belfast and the whole of the U.K. and Ireland as well, so I'm expecting a good atmosphere on July 30."
Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs), 27, a former bantamweight and junior featherweight titleholder, outpointed Los Angeles rival Abner Mares to win a vacant featherweight belt against in August. He made his first defense Feb. 27 in Anaheim, California, by knocking out former junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez in the fifth round. Martinez had lost twice previously to Frampton, including his world title in 2014.
"This is going to be a cracking fight," said McGuigan, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. "Their styles complement each other so well, so the real winner will be the fans. It is going to be a tough fight for both men, but I'm very confident that Carl will be able to impose his style on Santa Cruz and win this fight convincingly."
Earlier this month, Frampton was stripped of his WBA version of the title for not notifying the organization of whether he would make his mandatory defense. On Thursday, he announced that he has vacated his IBF version of the title because he elected to face Santa Cruz rather than make a mandatory defense against Japan's Shingo Wake.
"I'm delighted to be fighting Leo Santa Cruz for the [WBA] world featherweight title, but I would like to say a huge thank you to the IBF for their professionalism during my time as their champion," Frampton said. "I have been a proud IBF world champion for nearly two years, and I one day hope to once again become an IBF champion. I wish Shingo Wake the very best in his championship fight."