Carl Frampton will not miss a beat this weekend.
Any concerns over missing out on a stay-busy fight this weekend were alleviated, as Scotland's Darren "Trayn-Wreck" Traynor has been tabbed to next face the former two-division champion from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Their bout takes place this weekend, live from BT Sport Studio in East London (Saturday, ESPN, 4:00pm ET).
Traynor (16-3, 7KOs) replaces Armenia's Vahram Vardanyan, who was forced to withdraw due to visa issues.
"The show must go on, and Carl needed a fight after a pretty long layoff," Bob Arum, the Hall of Fame promoter and founder of Top Rank stated on Monday. "His goal is to become Ireland's first three-weight world champion, and after he's victorious on Saturday, we will do everything we can to give him that opportunity."
The rest of the show remains intact, including the billed co-main event between Frampton's countryman, Belfast's Michael Conlan (13-0, 7KOs) and former title challenger Sofiane Takoucht (35-4-1, 13 KOs).
Traynor represents the third boxer scheduled to face Frampton (27-2, 15KOs) in 2020, who has not fought since making his junior lightweight debut last November. The 2016 Fighter of the Year and former 122- and 126-pound champ entered the year with hopes of challenging reigning 130-pound titlist Jamel Herring (21-2, 10KOs) in his Belfast hometown. Those plans were scrapped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, leaving Top Rank to secure separate headliners for the two in hopes of keeping both active.
It hasn't quite worked out.
Herring has twice seen a voluntary title defense versus Puerto Rico's Jonathan Oquendo go awry, both times due to the 34-year old Long Island, New York-bred southpaw testing positive for COVID-19. The second such test was unofficially deemed a false positive, though enough to postpone his bout versus Oquendo until September 5, live on an ESPN platform from The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
By that point, his originally intended target hopes to have officially fought and won by then.
"I'm delighted to get an opponent over the line," notes Frampton, who has fought just once since a December 2018 loss to featherweight titlist Josh Warrington. "I have to credit [managerial conglomerate] MTK Global for seeing there could have been issues with the original opponent getting into the country, and they have been paying Darren Traynor for a number of weeks to train.
"He'll be in decent shape and will be up for it as well. There is no pressure on him, but it is up to me to look good. I want to be taking this guy out and then moving on to think about Jamel Herring."
Frampton intended to make his 130-pound debut last August, only to suffer a freak injury during fight week which canceled such plans for a stateside appearance in Philadelphia. He finally made his way to the ring last November, scoring a 10-round win over unbeaten Tyler McCreary in their 128-pound catchweight bout in Las Vegas to secure what he thought was going to be a shot at Herring in a bid to become a three-division titlist.
That dream remains alive, though just pushed along deeper in the calendar year and serving as motivation to be at his best this weekend.
"I can't be complacent in the slightest," admits Frampton. "I know I'm the big favorite in the fight, but I want to win and want to look good, and I want to win by knockout. I feel like he's a better opponent as he's fought at a higher level than Vardanyan, and he's coming in at lightweight."
It now comes against a veteran journeyman who has yet to score a win outside of his home country. All of three of Traynor's career defeats have taken place on the road, all coming in his last eight starts. An 8th round loss to Juli Giner in June 2018 was followed by a 20-month inactive period before returning to the ring and the win column with a six-round shutout over sub .500 Des Newton this past February.
Traynor has also fallen short versus former title challenger James Tennyson and current featherweight contender Ryan Walsh. Of course, his credentials are less germane to his services having been secured this weekend more so than his willingness to fight and availability to travel.
“Unfortunately, Vahram had visa issues, which was something that we had envisioned as a possible scenario," stated Jamie Conlan, vice president of MTK Global. "We reached out to Darren Traynor and his team to be ready in case this situation had come out this way."
If nothing else, it literally represents a bigger challenge for the marquee attraction.
"I haven't made my debut at junior lightweight yet and I'm already jumping in at lightweight," notes Frampton. "So that's obviously a little bit in his favor. [B]ut I'm looking forward to not having to struggle at all in fight week and then putting on an explosive show."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox