By Terence Dooley
Belfast’s Carl “The Jackal” Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) finally returns to the ring at the city’s SSE Arena this Saturday night as he bids to end a nightmare 2017 with a victory over Mexico’s Horacio Garcia (33-3-1, 24 early) on a Frank Warren-promoted show that will be televised by BoxNation and BT Sports here in the U.K.
The 30-year-old has only fought once this year—a decision defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in a defence of the WBA Super World featherweight title that he won from the Mexican in July 2016—after his last fight fell through due to opponent Andres Gutierrez falling in the shower and injuring himself on the eve of the contest.
Since that ill-fated weekend, Frampton has made wholesale changes to his team by hooking up with new trainer Jamie Moore, signing an advisory deal with MTK Global and inking a promotional pact with Frank Warren.
These moves heralded a complete split with Cyclone Promotions and former promoter Barry McGuigan, and he also dispensed with the services of Shane McGuigan, Barry’s son. With the most crucial years of his career ahead of him the former two-weight, two-time world titlist believes that the best is yet to come under this new regime.
“Usually when people change things in camp they change one thing,” he said when speaking to the media at a press conference earlier today. “I've changed everything. The way I'm feeling right now mentally, I think it's a good thing.”
“He's put the graft in,” added Moore. “He's slotted in nicely into the gym. He is in a good place mentally—that means you'll get the best performance out of him.”
“I think the atmosphere created at the SSE Arena is the best in world boxing,” Frampton opined. “It is a cauldron. It's unreal. I've won all my fights there by knockout and I'm hoping to do the same on Saturday.”
Frampton recently told BoxingScene that he believes he is still the best featherweight on the planet and has a slew of potential opponents waiting for him, but he used today’s presser to reiterate that he is solely focussed on the job at hand.
“All these (big) fights interest me, but there's only one man on my mind and that's Horacio Garcia,” he declared. “I don't know what it is, but people can see a spring in my step. I'm in a good place right now. The best is yet to come.”
Garcia, though, has vowed to spoil the homecoming and wants to ensure that 2017 ends on a sour note for Frampton. The 27-year-old spoke to the press via a translator, saying: “Carl is a great fighter. A victory over him is going to put me at the top of the rankings. They'll remember Horacio Garcia as one of the guys who beat Frampton.”
He added: “I've always been prepared for this type of fight. Especially this kind of event. It's an excellent motivation for myself. It's very important that Canelo (Alvarez) is coming to this fight.”
Frampton will be joined on the bill by fellow Belfast boxer Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11 early), who vies for a world title against the Philippine’s IBF World Super flyweight holder Jerwin Ancajas (27-1-1, 18 stoppages).
“Nobody deserves a world title fight more than Jamie,” said Francis Warren when introducing the combatants.
“I’m more mentally ready than ever, this is something you dream of as a kid,” stated Conlan. “I'm in a great place mentally. I am very happy with the training. The camp was great. We brought in the best sparring. We isolated ourselves away from home. [Trainer] Danny Vaughan was meticulous in his approach for Jerwin.”
“We know the enormity of the task,” added the 31-year-old challenger. “Nothing can stop me. I'm comfortable being uncomfortable. If I know I can drag you into that position with me, then you're in for a tough night. Jerwin Ancajas is probably top two in the world, in the hottest division in the world.
“(A world title fight) is something you've dreamed about since you were a kid. For the last 12, 11 weeks when we knew this fight was happening, I've dreamed of this fight when I've gone to bed.”
For his part, the 25-year-old titlist vowed to turn it into a nightmare for the hometown boy. “We are not worried about the crowd,” he said, speaking through a translator. “I'm excited to fight here in Belfast. I know my opponent is good. We've seen the style of Jamie. Whatever else he brings to the table, we are ready.”
South Africa’s Zolani Tete (25-3, 20 KOs) makes the first defence of the WBO world bantamweight title when he meets fellow South African Siboniso Gonya (11-1, 5 early). The 29-year-old wants to clear a path to Ryan Burnett to set-up a IBF World, WBA Super world and WBO unification bout. “Burnett is a two-time world champion now, let's give credit to the man,” he said. “I think we need to unify the decision, let's see who is the king. Let's do it now.”
“He can say whatever he wants,” said Siboniso, before addressing the title-holder directly. “Zolani, you'll see me in the ring. When it comes to the ring things happen differently. I'm going to win the fight, maybe early.”
“A knockout will definitely be there,” retorted Tete. “I'm giving him four rounds. It's up to him if he wants to end it in the second round, I don't mind. I'm happy to be here in the UK again, especially in Belfast. I've been preparing for this fight for almost two months. I'm ready.”
There was also some mutual respect on display between Frampton and Tete after he admitted that the African is one of the fighters he enjoys watching. “That means a lot to me,” beamed Tete. “He's one of the best fighters. Thank you very much.”
Please send news and views to @Terryboxing.