By Keith Idec
Carl Frampton will live out one of his dreams Saturday night.
Fighting at Windsor Park, an outdoor soccer stadium in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, has long been toward the top of Frampton’s bucket list.
A capacity crowd of approximately 25,000 is expected to attend his fight there against Australia’s Luke Jackson and Frampton is enjoying every moment of the buildup to their 12-round fight for the WBO’s interim featherweight title.
Frampton realizes, though, that he’ll have to return to the United States for the fights that matter most to him. Other than facing England’s Josh Warrington in the United Kingdom, Frampton likely would have to make another transatlantic trip to challenge one of the other featherweight champions.
“You take one fight at a time in this game,” Frampton told BoxingScene.com this week. “But the big fights I want are probably in America – [Leo] Santa Cruz, [Oscar] Valdez. Warrington [is] the big fight that could happen in the UK. But apart from that – Gary Russell, even – these are American fights. I’m happy to go back. I love fighting in the States. I fought there three times. I’m 2-1, but look, yeah, I’d love to go back.”
Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs), the WBA featherweight champ, and Russell (29-1, 17 KOs), the WBC 126-pound champ, might meet in a featherweight title unification fight next. That could leave Frampton to box Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs), who owns the IBF title, or Valdez, the WBO champ.
Beating Jackson (16-0, 7 KOs) for the WBO’s interim title Saturday night would move Frampton (25-1, 14 KOs) into perfect position to challenge Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs). Mexico’s Valdez might not want to fight Frampton next, however, because he is recovering from a broken jaw and recently replaced trainer Manny Robles with Eddy Reynoso.
Regardless, a rubber match with Santa Cruz is the fight Frampton really wants.
“The one I most want to fight is Leo Santa Cruz because it’s one each and there’s a score to be settled,” Frampton said. “And I feel like I want that. I feel like I’m harping on it a bit. I’m the only one really talking about that fight. I think Leo needs to be a little bit more vocal about it, but we should both want that, and I certainly do.”
Frampton has given up hope of luring Santa Cruz to the UK for their third fight. The former featherweight and super bantamweight champion conceded he expects “100 percent” to have to travel to the United States for their rubber match.
Their first fight, which Frampton won by majority decision, took place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in July 2016. Their immediate rematch, which Santa Cruz won by majority decision, headlined a card at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in January 2017.
The Frampton-Jackson fight will be streamed live on Showtime’s YouTube channel on Saturday. Showtime’s coverage will begin at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, when former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (26-0, 19 KOs) will battle Italy’s Francesco Pianeta (35-4-1, 21 KOs) in a 10-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.