Frampton: I'll make 2016 one of the greatest years in Irish sport
Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30
Carl Frampton watched closely as New York Mets batters pop-pop-popped balls into the cheap seats during batting practice at Citi Field on Wednesday evening.
The city's 'second' baseball team are a hot ticket these days, having made it back to the World Series last year. But in the steaming summer heat, 'The Jackal' is pretty warm himself.
Just across the borough boundary from the Mets' home in Queens, he'll top the bill in Brooklyn tomorrow night when he moves up to take on WBA super featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz.
A keen follower of all sporting disciplines - he chatted freely with Mets batters and pitchers after practice - Frampton sees the biggest fight of his life doubling up as a chance to make this one of the best years in Irish sport.
Sandwiched in between the European Championship and the start of Olympic action in Rio de Janeiro next week, his shot at history is an opportunity to keep the ball rolling.
"I think it's going to be huge - 2016 could really go down as a big year in Irish sporting history," said the 29-year-old, bidding to become the first two-weight champion from the island since Steve Collins.
"With both teams, Northern Ireland and the Republic doing so well in the Euros . . . I've already unified a division this year when I beat (Scott) Quigg and I'm going to beat Santa Cruz.
"We're hoping to pick up a few medals with the boys at the Olympic Games. It's going to be a huge year, 2016. I feel it's going to go down as one of the greatest years."
With that victory over Quigg in a raucous Manchester earlier in the year, Frampton unified the division he has called home for so long. He's been patient, some suggested too patient, in his planning.
However, the move up in weight to face the frenetic, all-action Santa Cruz now, rather than a year or two ago, works better for him.
"I think so. I wanted this fight when it was at 122lb, super-bantamweight. But I think it will suit me a bit better at 126," he added.
"Because I was killing myself to make 122, it would have been a tougher fight. I feel like I'm going to be stronger at 126. I'm going to be punching harder, I'm going to be stronger, my output is going to be greater - these boys are in for a shock."
Frampton's first foray across the Atlantic wasn't without its shocks, though. He was downed twice in the opening round by another Mexican, Alejandro Gonzalez Jr, in Texas last year. Harsh truths emerged from that scare, wrongs that have been righted ahead of battle at the Barclays Centre tomorrow.
"Ah there was loads of lessons learned. I got very complacent in El Paso," Frampton admitted.
"People were expecting me to win the fight and I was expecting it myself and it was too much of a relaxed feel, a bit of a holiday atmosphere. We only got into El Paso in for seven days.
"I wanted to do everything right this time and it needed to be right because Santa Cruz is an unbelievable fighter."
Frampton and Santa Cruz, both undefeated world champions, came face to face again yesterday at the final press conference in Lower Manhattan. The mutual respect between the pair was again clear.
"He's a very good fighter. He's relentless, he throws a lot of punches. He's got a big reach advantage over me and a height advantage too," said Frampton.
"I've been coming up against bigger guys all my life. I've been boxing since I was seven years old and everyone seems to be bigger than me. It's no different here.
"I feel like I have very good distance control. I'm very explosive, I can get in and out of range very quickly. I can punch hard too and that might be difference."