The 28 year-old executed a great gameplan, using far better tactics than the first fight, to frustrate the Northern Irishman and even up the score.
Santa Cruz began brightly, keeping the range and getting his shots off first and Frampton was then playing catch-up throughout the contest.
Frampton enjoyed more success in the mid-rounds, although Santa Cruz came of strong in the final few rounds to seemingly tie up a clear points win (WBN scored 116-112).
It wasn’t to be on the scorecards though as judges came back with wafer thin 115-113 decisions for Santa Cruz with two judges, with a third unable to split them.
After the fight, Frampton said he hopes Santa Cruz sticks to his word to have a trilogy fight in Belfast as the pair aim to meet again in the summer of 2017.
In the co-feature, the likeable Mikey Garcia is the new WBC lightweight champion after a thoroughly impressive performance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The 29 year-old, fighting for only the second time in three years due to a contract dispute with his previous employers, was in sparkling form against undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin.
Two rounds using his far superior jab were followed up by a devastating third session. Garcia scored with a crushing uppercut, and whilst Zlaticanin was attempting to regain his senses, connected with a vicious right hook and the Montenegrin was laid out cold for some time.
It took doctors a couple of minutes to revive Zlaticanin, who luckily was okay and can fight another day.
After the fight, Garcia told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring: “I’m glad my opponent in okay. We never wish anything bad to happen in the sport. I’m glad he’s able to recover and get up. I told him he’s still a champion.
“I think it was a great performance. I fought smart and kept the distance to control the range. We had a great gameplan to stick to my jab and follow through with my right hand. We were able to connect, hurt him and put and end to the night.”
Garcia could now move on to face the winner of the rematch between Jorge Linares and Anthony Crolla scheduled for March 25 as the WBC have made it clear they would like the champion and ‘Diamond’ title holder to meet at the earliest opportunity.
8 – Super Lightweight
Josh Taylor 8-0 UD
Alfonso Olvera 8-3-1
8 – Lightweight
Ivan Redkach 20-2-1 TKO8
Demond Brock 13-4-1
8 – Super Middleweight
David Benavidez 17-0 TKO2
Sherali Mamajonov 14-2
6 – Featherweight
Leduan Barthelemy 12-0 UD
Jesus Aguinaga 5-5-1
6 – Welterweight
Herbert Acevedo 13-2 UD
Chris Singleton 17-4-2
4 – Bantamweight
Antonio Santa Cruz 5-2 UD
Victor Torres 2-5-1
4 – Featherweight
Jerry Perez 1-0 TKO1
Javier Cepeda 0-5