If Carl Frampton becomes a three-weight world champion Saturday night in Dubai, he has every intention of fighting Shakur Stevenson next.
The unbeaten Stevenson is the WBO’s mandatory challenger for Jamel Herring’s junior lightweight title. Herring hasn’t expressed the same willingness to face Stevenson if he defeats Frampton in this optional title defense, but Frampton undoubtedly would embrace the challenge.
“That’s the deal,” Frampton told BoxingScene.com. “That’s the agreement, isn’t it? He’s the mandatory, so that has to be the fight next. It’s a very, very difficult fight. He’s someone who I rate immensely. I think he’s an amazing fighter. But it’s one fight at a time for me, and we can start to think about Shakur Stevenson straight after the Jamel Herring fight.”
Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) is tentatively scheduled to return to the ring June 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York, but he doesn’t have an opponent. The former WBO featherweight champ expects to fight for the WBO 130-pound crown in his next bout, though returning June 12 would be a quick turnaround for Frampton or Herring after they fight Saturday night at Caesars Bluewaters Dubai (ESPN+; 2 p.m. ET; 11 a.m. PT).
Regardless, Stevenson is willing to travel to Frampton’s hometown of Belfast to fight him if Frampton were to defeat Herring.
“That’s commendable,” Frampton said. “I know that he’s the star. If I beat Jamel Herring, I’ll be the champ. But Shakur will still be the kind of star and Top Rank’s young guy coming through. I know this game and I know they’ll be using him and they’ll wanna build a big platform behind him because I’m closer to the end than he is. So, it’s commendable that he wants to come to Belfast to fight me. It’d be nice to fight in Belfast again.”
The 34-year-old Frampton is certain that a fight against Stevenson would easily sell out Windsor Park, a soccer stadium in Belfast that could accommodate approximately 25,000 fans for boxing. Windsor Park was packed to capacity for Frampton’s ninth-round stoppage of Luke Jackson in August 2018.
“We’ve done it for Luke Jackson,” Frampton said, “who, no disrespect to him, isn’t a quarter of the fighter Shakur Stevenson is and we filled it pretty quickly. If we had a bigger stadium, we could do 50,000 for me and Shakur Stevenson in Belfast. I genuinely believe that. It’s just a pity that there’s not a big enough stadium to do it in.”
COVID-19 restrictions remain an obstacle for bringing a fight of that magnitude to the United Kingdom anytime soon. Frampton hopes, however, that Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will begin opening up later this year.
Frampton (28-2, 16 KOs) is slightly favored to beat Herring (22-2, 10 KOs), a southpaw who will defend his WBO belt for the third time. The former junior featherweight and featherweight champion realizes, of course, that he would be a decided underdog against the 23-year-old Stevenson, a skillful southpaw who won a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“He’s a quality fighter,” Frampton said. “He really is a quality fighter. I think he’s getting kind of his man strength now. You can see it in his fights, and how he’s handling people, manhandling people. I think his punching power is improving as well. That’s something that could’ve been kind of questioned at the early part of his pro career. But all around, there’s not a lot you can criticize him for. He’s a young guy, and an immense talent.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.