For Boxnation by Gylnn Evans
A 16,000 capacity purpose built stadium has been erected beneath the iconic Samson and Goliath cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to meet the huge demand to witness ‘The Jackal’s’ overdue crack at The Holy Grail. And the atmosphere, as always when Frampton fights, is sure to be chaotic.
Bookmakers enlist the 27 year old terror from Tiger Bay as a prohibitive 4-1 on favourite to repeat his February 2013 stoppage of Alicante’s Kiko ‘La Sensacion’ Martinez and capture the IBF super-bantam crown. But it’s certainly no formality.
Like his challenger, the Spanish champion enters on a streak of four successive stoppage wins and shall be making a third defence of the world title that he ripped from Columbia’s Jhonathan Romero 13 months ago.
Having triumphed in Ireland five times previously – not to mention meritable wins in France, Argentina, the US and Japan – Senor Martinez is less likely to be fazed by the commotion than most of Frampton’s recent victims and his confidence will presently be soaring out of the stratosphere.
With cable giants HBO showcasing in the US and roughly 100 countries screening worldwide, it’s sure to be an unmissable event as well as a truly memorable fight.
Catch the whole promotion – which also features top Irish prospects Eamonn O’Kane, Jamie Conlan, Marco McCullough and Conrad Cummings – live and exclusive in the UK by tuning into BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 7pm on fight night.
Shortly after concluding another frenetic training session with coach Shane McGuigan in Battersea, the ever obliging and engaging Frampton took time out to speak with boxing writer Glynn Evans about the defining night of his career thus far.
Most recent opponent Hugo Cazares from Mexico was commonly acknowledged as a defensive master. Did you surprise yourself by demolishing him so quickly?
I was very surprised. Hugo was a wily old boxer, a class operator with a reputation for being hard to tag clean. He was a former two weight world champion (WBO light-fly, WBA super-fly) with plenty of good wins at super-bantam before we fought. I did expect to stop him but I thought the fight would start cagily and go into the second half.
I was elated with my performance. After knocking out Martinez with a right hand and busting Jeremy Parodi with a body shot, it was great to finish Cazares with a sweet left hook. That shows that I’m very versatile, have more than one trick. Perhaps I’ll take Martinez out with an uppercut on Saturday night!
You’ve passed every mock exam that you’ve taken. Experience wise, could you be any more prepared for the ‘big one’?
Not really, no. To be honest, the team all felt that I’ve been ready for world title level for my last couple of fights only to get delayed by factors beyond our control. But these things happen for a reason.
My career has gone very smoothly to this point. This world title shot has come at precisely the perfect time, against a fighter I’ve already proven that I can beat. The extra tests that I’ve had over the last 12 months or so have simply made me even more prepared. Now, I believe that I’m equipped to not only win the world title, but to successfully defend it many times.
In the past Team Frampton has been pretty scathing of the IBF and, after beating Cazares in a final eliminator, everything appeared primed towards fighting Leo Santa Cruz for the WBC title. Why the sudden change of route?
We wanted Leo Santa Cruz after we felt we were being messed about by the IBF last year. Before the WBC final eliminator with Cazares, all the signals from Golden Boy Promotions were that a fight between Santa Cruz and myself would be easy to make.
But after they saw how I dealt with Cazares, they suddenly didn’t want to know and stopped returning our calls. I certainly didn’t want to find myself in a position similar to that which Kell Brook found himself in recently; waiting for a title shot for two prime years whilst mandatory challenger.
One day, I was at a cafe in Battersea when, out of the blue, Jake (McGuigan, Barry’s son) told me that the rematch with Martinez for the IBF title had been made. I was a bit shocked but very pleased.
Earlier this year all of my team made some scathing comments about the IBF but we’ve since kissed and made up. I know when I feel I’m being treated unfairly but maybe I need to learn when to hold my tongue. I’ll be very proud and honoured to hold their belt.
You must be hugely excited about the 16,000 capacity purpose built stadium that’s been erected to stage the fight. To what extent will the five starts you’ve made at the cauldron that is the Odyssey Arena have prepared you for the big night?
This fight is such a huge thing for the city of Belfast. I’m very grateful to my team that, as challenger, they’ve managed to bring an established challenger to my yard. And it’s extremely humbling to think that this iconic venue has been built especially for me.
It’s brilliant boxing at home and I really appreciate the support that I receive from the people of Northern Ireland. And, just as in Barry’s prime, I really sense that people from both the nationalist and loyalist communities are rooting for me. If I walked up either the Shankill Road or the Falls Road, the same amount of people would want to shake my hand. That’s really nice, makes me feel very humble and extremely proud.
The capacity on Saturday will be almost double what the Odyssey could hold but of course those great nights at the Odyssey will have helped me to acclimatize to the levels of noise and hysteria we can expect.
But, honestly, I’m always able to remain calm. It’d make no difference to me whether I was boxing before 10 people or 50,000.It’s just another day at the office. I’m always able to maintain a level head.
What additional problems could fighting outdoor pose?
I boxed outdoor a few times as an amateur so that won’t disrupt me. Early weather indications suggest it’s going to be a decent day but, if it rains or is windy, it’ll be the same for both of us so no excuses there. I’m confident that I can remain fully focussed.
There’s huge media interest in the event and the pressure is immense. Does that affect you positively or negatively?
Being the challenger for a world title in my home city, there’s been enormous press interest. I’ve tried to get as much out of the way as early as possible to free myself up for fight week.
All the attention undoubtedly brings added pressure but I like to think it affects me positively and that I perform at my best when the pressure is highest.
But having based myself at Shane (McGuigan)’s gym in Battersea, south London, for my preparation, I’m not right in the middle of everything. I’ve been able to focus completely on my training when I’ve needed to. It’s productive to get away.
The hardest part is actually that I’ve a wee daughter and a pregnant wife back in Belfast and I’d much prefer to be home looking after them. I miss them terribly. But the way I have to look at it, I’m away doing my job; earning for our future security.
You’ve operated at super-bantamweight throughout your entire five-year pro career and are now huge at the weight. Is it increasingly becoming a struggle? For how much longer can you operate at 122 and remain strong?
Making weight is actually getting easier with each camp. My body’s getting used to the demands. After I’ve captured the IBF title next Saturday, I’m certainly confident that I’ll be able to defend it quite a few times, and hopefully unify, before I inevitably move up. I believe I already have the power required to be a force at featherweight and super-featherweight.
Against Kiko, you’ll enjoy the rare treat of advantages in height and reach. How have you prepared to capitalise on that?
It’s actually been quite difficult because ‘Kiko’ is a very weird body shape. Though he’s short, he’s actually got quite long arms and it’s hard to replicate that in the one sparring partner.
I like to do a lot of sparring – I’ll have had over 200 rounds for this fight – and I like to spar hard. Most of the shorter guys I’ve tried to use just don’t come back. We have, however, used several bigger guys to replicate ‘Kiko’s aggression. I’ll be okay.
You’ve both improved significantly since your first ruck 19 months ago. Kiko has rebounded with four straight stoppage wins, three in world title fights. Are you anticipating a different beast? Does Kiko have the arsenal and versatility to box a different way?
Style wise, technical wise, tactical wise, I envisage we’ll see the same ‘Kiko’. He’ll be doing pretty much the same things that he’s done in his previous 35 fights, which is come forward aggressively.
He’ll possibly be a little more refined and I think his confidence will certainly have increased since he won his world title. That’s only natural. But I’m expecting that that confidence will be destroyed on fight night when he’s again confronted by the only opponent who ever managed to knock him out.
I anticipate him being at his absolute best but I also know that I’m a far better fighter than I was when we fought 19 months ago. That night, I made a lot of mistakes yet still bossed the fight all the way through, then knocked him out.
I see Saturday’s fight going pretty much the same way as the last one. ‘Kiko’ only knows one way; to be aggressive and steam forward. He’s just a strong, rugged mauler. He might be able to increase the pressure on what he delivered last time but he isn’t suddenly going to start boxing back foot. He’ll probably be the best he’s ever been but I’m not anticipating too many surprises.
Given the psychological edge that you carry in from your first fight, do you intend capitalising at the ‘head-to-head’ press conference and weigh-in?
I’ll just be taking it as it comes. The last press conference got pretty heated but that was all ‘Kiko’s’ doing, I can assure you. I’ve no plans to wind him up but he’s a very excitable, hot-headed individual so maybe I’ll whisper a few reminders. We’ll see.
Finally, Carl Frampton repeats his win and captures the IBF super-bantam on Saturday because……?
No disrespect to ‘Kiko’ but I’m simply a better fighter. Examine every aspect – technical, fitness, strength, tactical, power – and I’m superior in all of them.