By Lem Satterfield
Two-division and WBO interim featherweight champion Carl Frampton could earn his fourth straight victory, third win of the year and second consecutive stoppage against unbeaten IBF 126-pound titleholder Josh Warrington on December 22 at the Manchester Arena in Machester, England, a feat “The Jackal” believes would make him the division’s No. 1 fighter.
The 31-year-old Frampton (26-1, 15 KOs) looks to impressively dethrone the 27-year-old Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs) as a follow-up to earning his interim belt in April by unanimous decision over four-division champ Nonito Donaire in April and ninth-round TKO in August of previously undefeated 2012 Olympic team captain Luke Jackson, whom he floored with an eighth-round body shot in his native Belfast, Northern Ireland.
After Warrington, Frampton eyes unifications against WBO titlist Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs) or else the winner of a planned bout between left-handed WBC champ Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) and WBA counterpart Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs), with a clash against Santa Cruz being a rubber match.
“If I unify then I’m the number one in the division – there’s no doubt about it. That’s an easy question to answer. Straight away, after I beat Warrington, it’s got to be one of the other champions,” said Frampton.
“After Warrington, any fight with one of the other champions is all I’m looking at. I don’t want anyone in between. Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jr. or Oscar Valdez – I’ll take any of them. Santa Cruz is the one I want the most because we’ve each one a fight against the other. That’s the one I keep talking about. If I didn’t get that fight, both the Valdez fight and the Russell Jr. fights could be made.”
Since dethroning Lee Selby (26-2, 9 KOs) in what Frampton has called “an upset,” Warrington has stated “I am going to go for a stoppage this time” against Frampton.
“I saw Warrington saying he’s going to knock me out, which is insane because he doesn’t knock anyone out…If you wanna talk about fighters who were made for me, Warrington has a come-forward, aggressive style and he’s not a big puncher,” said Frampton.
“I don’t know how the fight [with Warrington] ends. All I know is that I will win the fight. I believe there are things I can expose in Warrington, but I’m not going to predict a stoppage. I could stop him but I always just predict a win.”
“The Jackal” won a 122-pound unification by split-decision over Scott Quigg in February 2016, adding Quigg’s WBA junior featherweight crown to the IBF version he already owned before rising in weight to face Santa Cruz.
Frampton hopes to force a trilogy fight with Santa Cruz, having beaten the 30-year-old by majority decision in July 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and lost their return bout the same way in January 2017 at The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
"Obviously, I had a decent reputation before I fought Leo Santa Cruz. But in becoming a two-weight world champion, that’s improved,” said Frampton in August before defeating Jackson.
“I already had good support being a unified champion in the super bantamweight division. But when you go and defeat a three-weight world champion in Leo Santa Cruz, that’s only going to enhance your reputation, and that’s definitely what it’s done for me."
After beating Frampton, Santa Cruz earned an eighth-round stoppage of Chris Avalos in October before winning a battle of three-division champions by unanimous decision over Abner Mares in a June rematch of Santa Cruz’s majority decision in August 2015.
“Leo Santa Cruz’s performance against Mares was very good. I think Mares was good as well in a good fight – probably better than the first fight," said Frampton.
"Their first fight was another cracker. Like myself against Leo, they were two good fights. I think Leo did well and won the fight convincingly, in my eyes.”