Teetotal Frampton confident he can join pantheon of great fighters
Twenty-three months after surrendering the WBA world featherweight belt to Leo Santa Cruz after a classic encounter in Las Vegas, Belfast's Carl Frampton aims to secure the IBF title in the 126lb division in the Manchester Arena tonight.
The 31-year-old takes on Josh Warrington who is unbeaten in 27 fights since turning pro in 2009. This is the first defence of the IBF belt which he secured at Leeds United's Elland Road in front of his own fans last May with a split-decision win over Welshman Lee Selby.
This is a defining fight in the second phase of Frampton's career. A second career loss would almost certainly mark the beginning of the end of his dream of winning another world belt. In contrast, a victory would propel him into the pantheon of great fighters.
He would become the first Irish boxer to win four professional world titles having previously held the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight belts, as well as the WBA featherweight crown.
In the wake of his majority-decision loss to Santa Cruz, Frampton split with his manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan. He subsequently teamed up with Jamie Moore, a former European light middleweight champion.
Under the tutelage of the Manchester- based trainer, Frampton has fashioned wins over Horacio Garcia, Nonito Donaire - who relieved Ryan Burnett of his world bantamweight title last month when the latter was forced to retire due to a freak injury - and Australian Luke Jackson.
The latter fight was an outdoor show in Belfast's Windsor Park last August, fulfilling Frampton's lifelong ambition to fight at the home ground of the Northern Ireland soccer team. Now, however, he faces his moment of truth as he bids for the IBF world belt.
A consummate professional, Frampton hasn't taken a drink since St Stephen's Day last year in order to concentrate on regaining a world belt.
He intends to stay teetotal regardless of tonight's result. In an interview with ESPN he said: "I'm living the life of a professional athlete now. It was December 26 last year that I had a real skinful and had a pretty bad hangover the next day. I made a New Year resolution that I was going to stay off the booze until I pack it in with boxing.
"The difference with packing up means that I go back into training camps in much better shape and my weight hasn't ballooned. It's benefited me at this stage of my career. I'm excited, relaxed and looking forward to a good tough fight. My nature is laid-back and I will be like that until the ring walk.
"I got a text message from a good friend and he said 'total respect but no fear' and that is what this is. I believe I am better that ever because I was beating Leo Santa Cruz and Scott Quigg when I wasn't enjoying boxing.
"I believe Josh is a very good fighter, but I'd beat any featherweight in the world on my day. The ambition is there more than ever because I have been written off. The fire is burning in me and people will see in a dog fight that I am not over the hill."
Warrington is two inches taller than Frampton, giving him an obvious reach advantage, but his opponent is a more experienced fighter who has beaten better opponents than Warrington has.
He insists the prospect of defending his belt against Frampton excites him.
"I have been preparing for Carl at his prime and that excites me to graft my backside off. I gained confidence and momentum from beating Lee Selby and I will find that level tonight.
"People said I should have gone for an easy first defence of my title but I want the best and after this I'll go to the States and fight Oscar Valdez (the current WBO featherweight champion)
At yesterday's weigh-in Frampton, as the challenger, registered 125.8lbs and Warrington 125.6lbs. In a fight which is likely to go the distance, Frampton should get the verdict.
Elsewhere on the card Michael Conlan, who now looks to be reaping the benefits of working with new trainer Adam Booth, aims to keep his unbeaten professional record and move to 10-0 when he takes on former Commonwealth champion Jason Cunningham in a featherweight contest.
A southpaw, he has a decent record winning 24 of his 29 fights though his career has faltered in recent times having lost two of his last three contests.
Double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes - whose premature bid to land a world flyweight bid ended in a KO defeat at Windsor Park in August - bids to get his pro career back on track while Tyson Fury's younger brother Tommy makes his professional debut on the show.
Meanwhile, only five ounces separated the warring British rivals with Dereck Chisora scaling lighter at 17st 8lbs 3oz and looking in the best condition of his career, while Dillian Whyte, was almost a stone under the total for his previous outing against Joseph Parker in July.
After two relatively calm days of build-up, the fuse was lit for the showdown at The O2 when a brawl erupted as the fighters and their entourages left the stage in north London.
- Frampton v Warrington expected to start at 10.30, Live BT Box Office PPV, from 6.0.
- Chisora v Whyte, Live Sky Sports Box Office, from 6.0.