CAN’T MISS

Feath­ers set to y in Manch­ester, writes Daniel Her­bert

Boxing News - - Previews -

WITH the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of An­thony Joshua vs Tyson Fury at heavy­weight, Josh

War­ring­ton vs

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.

Pho­tos: AC­TION IM­AGES/ADAM HOLT

OOZ­ING CON­FI­DENCE: Both War­ring­ton and Framp­ton are cer­tain of vic­tory

Pho­tos: AC­TION IM­AGES/JA­SON CAIRNDUFF

ALL ABOUT LEV­ELS: Framp­ton be­lieves he is a class above his op­po­nent

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