By Frank Warren
LAST WEEK WE set the Belfast bandwagon rolling with official confirmation of what should be an enthralling night at the SSE Arena on April 21.
Carl Frampton said before his last fight that it would be the highest quality card staged in his home city, but I believe we have now got one that will surpass that November night.
It will take some doing but all the ingredients are there. Carl himself is in a prestige punch-up against former four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire, while an undercard has been put in place that would do good business on its own.
Carl though is really, once again, stepping up to the plate against probably the best away fighter to have fought in Belfast – as far as I can recall anyway.
Donaire was really well received there during his visit because they love top fighters in that city. He is also a particularly appealing character – an absolute gentleman – and I think we are in for a bit of a treat with this fight.
I am hoping to get the winner into the No.1 spot with the WBO, which would be good and increase the potential options for Carl for his proposed summer showdown.
The matching of Conrad Cummings v Luke Keeler, Jono Carroll v Marco McCullough and Tyrone McKenna v Philip Sutcliffe jr has also set a lot of tongues wagging, so I am really pleased with how the bill is shaping up.
The week before Belfast we have lined up a world title double-header that should be a bit special.
Billy Joe Saunders is gathering momentum as a genuine world champion and he makes a fourth defence of his title against Martin Murray, who has got a good bit of previous at world level.
Murray is a competitor, he got cheated in Argentina against Sergio Martinez and suffered from a debatable decision before that in Germany with a draw against Felix Sturm.
Murray is a match for anybody and, until he came up against Daniel Jacobs and Canelo, it was the St Helens man who gave Gennady Golovkin his toughest night back in 2015.
He came up a little bit short at super middleweight, but impressively overcame Gabriel Rosado on his return to 160lbs last year to put himself back in the title mix.
Nobody has ever had it easy against Murray and Bill will have to stay on his game to remain in contention to take on the winner of the anticipated May rematch between Golovkin and Canelo.
The reason we wanted to do an all-British event and these other people are not in our thinking. Where we’re at is that we want the winner of the big rematch that is expected to take place in May and we will see whether either of them has got the balls to step up and fight Bill.
I suspect Canelo no longer wants any part of a fight with Bill following his December display in Canada. It will be interesting to see if Golovkin is still willing having previously sent a contract and then pulled out of it.
Bill has now hit a bit of form so we will have to see where we are with it all now. Neither of the big two have indicated in any way lately that they are up for the fight.
Our other man in world title combat on April 14 is Terry Flanagan, who fights for the vacant WBO super lightweight belt against the unbeaten American Maurice Hooker.
Again it is a cracker of a fight on paper and, if Terry comes through it, there are a lot of potential big fights to had moving forward – also on the domestic front with Jack Catterall ready and waiting.
The Manchester man had talked about moving up for some time and it made perfect sense when the title became vacant following Terrence Crawford’s switch to welterweight.
Turbo Terry won’t have it easy against ‘Mighty Mo’, who boasts 16 KOs from his 23 wins, but the bigger challenge you set for Terry, the more he rises to the occasion.
So that is our opening gambit for a big night that we will be revealing full details of this week and, you can bet your bottom dollar, we will be stacking the card up with further big fights in support.
And now for the icing on the cake – I am delighted to confirm that contracts have been signed for the all-British IBF World Featherweight Championship between Welsh holder Lee Selby and his mandatory challenger Josh Warrington to meet in Josh’s hometown Leeds on Saturday May 19, another much-anticipated domestic classic that will be shown live and exclusive on BT Sport and BoxNation.
MORE BIG NEWS broke last week with the British Boxing Board of Control lifting the suspension of Tyson Fury. The undefeated lineal champion is now free to return to the ring subject to him fulfilling medical criteria, which I am sure he will do.
I am expect to see him back in action in mid to late April as he plots a route back to where he once reigned.