By Terence Dooley
Belfast’s Carl Frampton (24-1, 14 KOs) knows that he cannot afford to slip up when he meets former four-weight world titlist Nonito Donaire (38-4, 24 early) for the interim WBO World featherweight title at the SEE Arena in Belfast on Saturday night in a fight that will set the winner up for either a crack at full holder Oscar Valdez, who is recovering from a broken jaw, or one of the division’s other titlists.
“The Jackal” endured a nightmare start to 2017 after losing by Majority Decision to Leo Santa Cruz, who he beat for the WBA’s Super World title by the same result in July of the previous year, and missing the weight for a fight against Andres Gutierrez, which was then spiked after the visitor slipped in the shower and was unable to box due facial wounds.
Currently mired in a legal dispute with former promoter and mentor Barry McGuigan, Frampton decided to join forces with Frank Warren, MTK Global and replaced former trainer Shane McGuigan, Barry’s son, with Salford’s Jamie Moore in a bid to reinvigorate a career that he admits was in danger of going stale.
The 31-year-old has also adopted a multi-discipline approach, bringing in a sports psychologist, performance team, and adding other wrinkles to ensure he makes the most of his time in the sport. Indeed, after a mixed performance against Horacia Garcia in November the two-weight world champion has been written off at the top level in some quarters, and he knows he needs to perform against Donaire to erase the memories of that fight.
“I think I got a bit of a pass with Garcia because of the year I’d had yet I knew I’d have to step up the opposition for the next one,” he said when speaking to BoxingScene.
“I was keen for it. It is a risk, no doubt about it, but it will get me ready to make sure that I don’t just turn up for a world title fight, I will come out of it as a winner.”
Frampton’s strong home support will roar him through any sticky moments, and he admits that there is no place quite like home on big nights, but the support, although nice, added an inadvertent and extra layer of pain after Frampton lost to Cruz. When dropping his daughter off at school the other parents would come up and offer their congratulations to their beaten hero. It was undoubtedly a bid to boost his moral yet it bridled with him and jabbed at his fighting pride.
“People were being nice, probably because they don’t know what to say, but it was annoying,” he said. “It felt to me at the time almost like it was patronising towards me. It wasn’t. People were just being nice to me.”
The decision to move to Moore’s Astley-based gym was prompted by some rare input from his father, who mooted the former light-middleweight as a possible coach after being impressed with what he had seen of him on TV. Following a trial period, Frampton decided that he had found the right place for the next phase of his career.
“I was talking to my dad. I was driving and thinking of who I was going to go with, and he slipped Jamie’s name in—it was a good shout from my dad. My dad never really gets involved in my career, he’s a big support of course but lets the people do what they are doing. It was just a suggestion, a good one, and the rest is history. I felt welcomed in the gym. It was a good craic with no d*ckheads around.”
The showdown with Donaire has been characterised by mutual respect on both sides, with neither fighter feeling the need to engage in the trash talking that has become de rigueur in the social media age. Frampton told me that sometimes a fight sells itself, and this is one of those occasions.
“He knows what he is and I know what I am, we are similar characters who don’t need to talk it up,” he said. “We are clever enough to avoid the hype and the bullshit, but I know that he sees this as an opportunity so will want to take my head off. All the nicety will go once the bell goes.”
“No, not really, there are other options as this is a final eliminator for the WBO title,” he said when asked if the winner of Lee Selby’s IBF title defence against Josh Warrington is next. “Valdez draws more attention worldwide so that is an option. I also want to fight at Windsor Park and know that Frank can deliver that. I’d like another two this year, a summer one then December time ideally.
“I feel like I want to perform, that the pressure if off me now and that I can prove people wrong. Some people think I’m done, but I’m far from done. I’m expecting a big performance, I don’t predict anything but a win and one that will force people to take notice again.”
With all that said, and given that he had been contemplating retirement before switch up his team, I asked if he had continued working on an exit plan or would let his body and form dictate how long he has left in the game.
“I don’t want to put a number on it,” he answered. “I kind of had the number 32 in my head, but while I’m enjoying it and performing I’ll be able to carry on and bring the top guys. I’m training smart now, I used to run myself into the ground so feel better for it.”
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