'This could be the best year of my career' - Carl Frampton predicts big few months
Carl Frampton feels he is enjoying boxing more than ever before and that 2018 could prove the best year of his career to date.
That would make for a stark contrast to last year, which the former two-weight world champion in November labelled "disastrous" just before he outpointed Mexico's Horacio Garcia at the SSE Arena in his native Belfast.
The preceding months of 2017 had seen the previously-unbeaten Frampton lose the WBA featherweight title with a rematch defeat to another Mexican, Leo Santa Cruz, and then his fight against another, Andres Gutierrez, called off with less than 24 hours' notice due to his opponent withdrawing injured after slipping in the shower.
Frampton, who turns 31 on Wednesday, also split with manager Barry McGuigan and his trainer son Shane.
He linked up with promoter Frank Warren and appointed Jamie Moore as his new trainer prior to the Garcia bout, and his second fight since making the changes is scheduled for April 21, a highly-anticipated featherweight clash with Nonito Donaire at the SSE Arena.
Speaking on Tuesday at the gym in Astley where he has been working with Manchester's Moore, Frampton told Press Association Sport: "I think potentially this could be the best year of my career.
"Obviously 2017 wasn't great, but it finished on a high with the win. I've changed teams and overhauled everything that was going on behind the scenes and I feel better for it.
"Kicking it off in 2018 with Nonito Donaire, potentially a fight at Windsor Park in the summer, and then maybe squeezing another one in before Christmas - that is a very good year.
"I was saying I had 32 in my head (as a retirement age) because I wasn't really enjoying boxing at the time, but now I am.
"I've been involved in boxing 23 years now and this is the most I've ever enjoyed it.
"This gym is brilliant. I love it. The camaraderie is great.
"I think Jamie is very knowledgeable. I'm not saying my old trainer's approach was bad, but Jamie has a different approach, very tactical.
"We go through tactics over and over that we think are going to work against the opponent and we keep repeating them until we get them right.
"It's a different approach to what I was used to before, and I feel at this stage of my career it is going to benefit me."
In 35-year-old Filipino Donaire (38-4, 24 KOs), Frampton (24-1, 14 KOs) is taking on a man who has held world titles in four weight classes.
"He's a brilliant fighter and I'm expecting the best Nonito Donaire there has been," Frampton said.
"I'll need to be at my best, and I think with the way I'm feeling at the gym at the minute, you are going to see the old Carl Frampton back again."
Frampton says facing the winner of IBF featherweight world champion Lee Selby's May 19 clash with Josh Warrington is "definitely one option" for after the Donaire contest.
And regarding a third meeting with Santa Cruz - who fights Abner Mares on June 9 - Frampton said: "It kind of has to happen. That fight is always going to be there.
"Everyone knows I'm desperate for that fight. But I think he needs to show the same amount of interest I am at the minute and give the boxing fans what they want to see."