Feathers set to y in Manchester, writes Daniel Herbert
WITH the possible exception of Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury at heavyweight, Josh
Carl Frampton is probably the best fight in British boxing right now – and it goes ahead for the former’s IBF 126lbs belt on Saturday (December 22) at the Manchester Arena.
Frank Warren, who handles both boxers, promotes with the show televised on BT Sport Box Office in the UK and ESPN+ in the USA. There is an unfortunate clash with Matchroom’s heavyweight PPV offering in London the same night – but Warrington-frampton has a real “can’t-miss” feel, if only because styles should blend so well.
Warrington is an aggressive, hard- working type who comes forward non-stop, while the more experienced Frampton has excellent skills backed by a nasty dig in either hand.
Adding spice is the needle in the build-up, while on the night a full house of around 20,000 is expected with Manchester halfway between the boxers’ respective hometowns: Warrington is from Leeds, Frampton from Belfast.
Warrington got here by upsetting the odds. Back in May he started an underdog against Lee Selby, with most reckoning the flashy Welshman’s skills and mobility would overcome the Leeds man’s workrate.
In fact, Warrington started fast and kept going, never allowing the IBF champ to get set as Josh took a split, but fully deserved, points victory. There was talk that making weight had caught up with Selby, known to be tight at 9st (126lbs) for years, but Warrington (and his father/ trainer Sean O’hagan) executed the right gameplan to perfection. Frampton is a different proposition from Selby, though. He has already been world champ at two weights (super-bantam and feather), before being toppled – and then battling back to secure this chance. Back in July 2016 the world was Carl’s oyster when he dethroned WBA 126lbs champ Leo Santa Cruz in New York City. But then it all went wrong for the Northern Irishman. A Santa Cruz rematch in Las Vegas brought a majority decision defeat and later that year Carl parted company with his promoters Cyclone, leading to litigation.
He left trainer Shane Mcguigan to join Jamie Moore in Manchester and hooked up with promoter Frank Warren, who has produced this chance to regain world champion status at the advanced age (for a smaller fighter) of 31.
Will Frampton have enough left to topple Warrington, the younger man by three years and coming into to this fight on the back of his biggest victory? At least Frampton doesn’t have to travel far. Manchester will be rocking on Saturday night, but Frampton will enjoy plenty of support and it would be far worse fighting Warrington at the Elland Road ground of his favourite Leeds United football team, as Selby had to.
And Carl has proved his mettle in big fights. As a super-bantam he beat Scott Quigg in a battle of unbeaten world champions - also at the Manchester Arena - and he dethroned Santa Cruz in the USA. He won’t be fazed.
It’s true that the powerfully built Frampton was tight at 122 and the same probably still pertains up at 126. He has tasted the canvas too: Alejandro Gonzalez Jr dropped him twice in the opening round of a July 2015 IBF superbantam title defence in Texas, before Carl rallied to win on points; while Horacio Garcia had him over in round seven of a November 2017 feather 10-rounder before Frampton won the decision.
Otherwise, his chin has proved sound against some pretty decent punchers, so it’s unlikely Warrington will win inside distance, especially given Josh’s forte is a high volume of punches rather than explosive single-punch power.
The Yorkshireman does have a history of cutting opponents, most recently Selby, and while he has only six inside the distance wins, all came in his last 12 outings – confounding the usual wisdom that as you move up the ladder you score fewer stoppages.
Said Warrington, “I knew I had the power to hurt Selby and I know I’ve got the power to hurt Carl. It’s about timing in this game and this is my time now.”
Josh has undoubtedly developed a lot as he has steadily banked British, Commonwealth, European, WBC International and IBF titles. Yet that may not be enough to overcome Frampton, who possesses the more refined technique and better variety, proven at a high level.
“His style is made for me,” averred Frampton of the champion. “He’s praying I’m over the hill, but when I nail him in the first round, he’ll know he’s in a world he’s never been in before.” The pick here is for Frampton’s extra seasoning to see him through some rough moments in the early going before he takes control to win a gruelling battle on points.
Pick of a big undercard is the vacant British middleweight title clash between Oldham puncher Mark Heffron, 21-0 (17), and experienced Welsh campaigner Liam
Williams, 18-2-1 (13). Williams had two close fights with Liam Smith but that was down at 154lbs, so expect Heffron’s greater firepower to prove the difference in about eight rounds.
In other notable middleweight action, St Helens’ former multiple world title challenger Martin Murray, 37-4-1 (17), takes on France’s former WBA champ Hassan N’dam N’jikam, 36-3 (21), while Billy Joe Saunders [inset] 26-0 (12), boxes Hungarian journeyman
Zoltan Sera, 32-17-1 (22), in his first bout since losing his WBO belt – and a major payday against Demetrius Andrade - because of a failed drug test.
THE VERDICT Frampton’s out to prove he still has what it takes.
OOZING CONFIDENCE: Both Warrington and Frampton are certain of victory
ALL ABOUT LEVELS: Frampton believes he is a class above his opponent