New York: 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 challenger Frampton improved to 23-0 with 14 knockouts as he had to overcome a height and weight disadvantage in one of the few times in his career he has moved up to fight at 126 pounds.
"It is a dream come true," said Frampton, who was born in Belfast. "I had a dream of winning a world title and I won it.
"I won it with my heart, not with my head. I got my hand raised."
The 29-year-old Frampton controlled the fight between the two undefeated boxers in the early rounds, landing a punishing left hook in the second round that sent the champ backpedaling across the ring.
He then held on for the win as Santa Cruz gained steam in the middle rounds before the two closed it out by exchanging heavy blows in the middle of the ring as the final bell rang.
One judge scored it even, 114-114, while the other two gave it to Frampton 117-111 and 116-112.
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 short 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.
"He has a difficult style, but we know his style and will get him in the rematch," Santa Cruz said.
Santa Cruz had considered pulling out of the fight a few months ago because his father and trainer, Jose Santa Cruz, is battling bone cancer.
But dad was at his son's side on Saturday night as the trainer continues to wage the fight of his life against the disease.
Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 knockouts) suffered the first defeat of his career, losing the belt he won also by a majority decision when he beat Abner Mares last August. He defended it five months ago when he stopped Kiko Martinez in five rounds.
Frampton won the 126 pound title despite giving away two inches in height and four inches in reach to Santa Cruz.
He is now 5-0 in title fights and 8-0 in fights above 122 pounds.
The crowd of 9,062 at the Barclays Center arena included four-time major championship winning golfer Rory McIlroy.