LEO SANTA CRUZ plans to move to the “next level” with a win over Carl Frampton in their highly anticipated featherweight clash on Saturday night.

The California-based Mexican defends his WBA world title for the second time, while Frampton is debuting at 126lbs.

Though the champion is a slight betting favourite, it’s a devilishly difficult fight to call and Leo feels it presents the opportunity to become a pound-for-pound entrant.

“This could definitely be a career-defining fight. I think getting a win over Carl Frampton will get me to the next level. I think the winner of the fight will be considered one of the best fighters in the world,” he said.

“I’m ready to come here and give a great fight. I want to make it a war. Carl Frampton is a great fighter and he makes for an interesting fight. I’m excited to perform in front of the fans.

“Carl is an undefeated fighter just like myself, so we’re both going to be hungry. We’re going to leave it all in the ring. Neither of us wants to lose and we’re going to give it our all.”

Though Frampton is moving up from super-bantamweight, he boxed in the featherweight division as an amateur and insists he will be stronger at the new weight.

Santa Cruz, who started out as a bantamweight, but holds significant advantages in height and reach over Frampton, would not be surprised if the Ulsterman is bigger than him on the night.

“I don’t think moving up in weight will affect Carl at all. He’s got a big frame and he’s a big guy. He is probably a little bit bigger than me. I know he had problems making 122 pounds, but this should be easier for him,” he said.

“I think he’s going to move and I’m going to have to be smart and not get caught. If I’m not feeling his punches, then we’re going to stand in front of him and exchange. I can also box with him if I need.

“I know I’ll have to use my jab and follow up with the right. We have a game plan and backup plans. We’ll be ready for anything.

“I think our styles are both very exciting. I can’t wait for Saturday night. This is the right fight. I’m hoping that both of us come forward and give the fans a show.

“People think Frampton is the underdog because he’s moving up in weight. But I moved up in weight too. I never take an opponent lightly. I’m going to come really hungry. I respect every fighter and I train for my opponent to be at his best.”