Monday 11 December 2017

Frampton ready to defy weight of evidence and silence critics

Carl Frampton. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Carl Frampton. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Steve Bunce

Carl Frampton will enter the ring in New York on Saturday night to fight the unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz as a huge underdog, viewed as a sacrifice and hired only because the boxing business in America considers him vulnerable.

As Frampton ducks through the ropes at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, he will be stranded under the lights and a long way from the comfort and adoration of his Belfast public.

Inside, it will be raucous, with thousands of shirtless men singing in the heat under a swaying thicket of upraised arms.

Frampton is unbeaten in 22 fights and in his last fight he won his second world title when he beat his nemesis Scott Quigg, who was unbeaten at that point, in front of 19,000 at the Manchester Arena.

It was a fight the Americans conveniently missed in their rush to judge Frampton on the basis of his world title defence 12 months ago in Texas.

Frampton was caught cold on a blistering, debilitating day and dropped twice by Alejandro Gonzalez in the opening round before recovering and winning the next 11 rounds.

It is hard for boxing's small men to maintain their fragile weight in 110 degrees without drowning in water and Frampton's suffering in the first round should be a deterrent, not an encouragement.

"I got this fight only because of the Gonzalez fight," Frampton said, the slightest sense of disgust in his voice.

"I have been chasing Santa Cruz since 2013. Deals were talked about. Then he moved up and then there was the Gonzalez fight.

"They think it is safe now. They have convinced themselves that I will have nothing at the new weight. They are mad."

Santa Cruz is the WBA featherweight champion, unbeaten in 33 fights, including 11 world title fights at three weights during a classy four-year period of domination.

Shift

Frampton has had to gain 4lb, moving from 8st 10lbs to 9st (126lb) for Saturday's fight. Yet, the 4lb shift will, Frampton claims, make the difference and not break him.

"I have been dead at 122lb for a long, long time," admitted Frampton with a delayed candid confession that the starved offer when mistakes have been made.

The weight change by Frampton is different to the recent move by Amir Khan and the one planned in September by Kell Brook, both of whom missed a weight at the scales and, some might say, clear thinking for cash dreams.

In May, Khan gained ten pounds, eagerly leapt a whole division and was knocked out by Saul Canelo Alvarez in a fight that looked like a calculated risk but developed slowly on the night into a nightmare.

Brook, like Khan a welterweight of 147lb, has accepted an even more ruthless challenge and will gain 13lb when he fights Gennady Golovkin in London on September 10; Brook is rumoured to be receiving a purse ten times better than anything he has been paid in the past.

The Kazakh is considered the best fighter in the world right now and is on a run of 17 consecutive knockouts in world title fights.

Khan and Brook took huge risks for the money, in defining fights against naturally bigger and savage fighters; Frampton has taken a reduction in pay and will be shorter, but not smaller on the night.

Committed

Santa Cruz has also committed the unwritten boxing sin of looking beyond his next fight, talking boldly of gaining as much as 14 more pounds and winning world titles at three extra weights.

He is an American boxing star, one of a dozen scrapping for the riches left hidden somewhere by Floyd Mayweather's departure last September. It is not a pleasant squabble to watch.

Frampton won his first world title on a blustery, tearful and draining night outside at the Titanic project in his beloved Belfast. The following morning, his fists were ruined, his face bloated and his body was stiff, but he was able to shuffle the first few steps down the path to New York.

On Saturday he arrives and the fans are waiting. (© Independent News Service)

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