Carl Frampton celebrating (Getty images)Carl Frampton celebrating (Getty images) © Copyright

Small men, big fight

Carl Frampton v Scott Quigg may just be the fight of 2016. Frampton tells us why

2015 may have been the year of the superfight as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally got it on, but little looks like changing in 2016. This February, super bantamweights Carl “The Jackal” Frampton (21-0) and Scott Quigg (31-0-2) face off in the first major bout of the year, and it’s got fight of the year written all over it.

Belfast’s favourite son Frampton will be putting his IBF super bantamweight world championship on the line, while Quigg does the same with his WBA super world title. The winner will unify one of boxing’s most vibrant divisions, and firmly establish themselves as a top player on the sport’s global stage.

But for Frampton, this fight is more than a chance to prove he’s the most dominant boxer in the division. He wants to bring boxing back to the masses, and believes he can do this with a tour-de-force against Quigg. 

Frampton vs Quigg (Getty images, Charles McQuillan)

 

“When the pressure is on I perform,” Frampton tells us when we visit his training base in Battersea, south London. “I’m not taking him for granted and I know if do what I’m doing in the gym and use my brain, this will be an easy fight.

“I think fights like this can make the general public fall back in love with boxing again.”

Frampton, 29 next month, has the chance to do so if the fireworks he promises are delivered. He fights Bury’s Quigg, 27, in his opponent’s backyard on 27 February at the Manchester Arena, and the build-up is already suggesting it will be a classic.

Frampton is unbeaten in 21 fights, winning them all, with 14 coming by way of knockout. His talent is precocious, too; he was a decorated amateur before turning pro in 2008, he won the Commonwealth super bantamweight championship in his 11th fight, the EBU European crown in his 16th and the IBF world title three fights later.

Similarly, Quigg, the WBA super bantamweight champ, is unbeaten in 33 fights. He’s won 31 of those bouts – 23 by knockout – and has drawn two, successfully defending his WBA title six times.

There are obvious parallels between both men’s careers – they’ve beaten the same people and they’ve been televised on the same channels – but as fighters, they’re totally different prospects. 

Carl Frampton IBF fight  (Getty images, Charles McQuillan)

 

Frampton is the technically superior boxer who fights off the back foot, often rendering opponents unconscious with lightning-fast hooks or uppercuts, while Quigg is the pressure fighter, depriving his opponents of space, before ramping up the pace until the stoppage is won.

Frampton believes that Quigg’s come-forward style is a perfect match for his, however: “I’m as sharp as I’ve ever been and you’re going to see the best ever performance from me.”

And he believes this is just one fight in his overall path to becoming a crossover star. It’s no secret that his path is well mapped out, as it’s a road we’ve seen travelled down before by his mentor, Irish boxing legend Barry McGuigan. With Barry’s son Shane coaching Carl, and Shane’s brothers Jake and Blain handling the promotional side of Carl’s career under the Cyclone Promotions banner, it’s truly become a family affair.

Boxing has changed since McGuigan’s ’80s hay-day, but Frampton’s fights on terrestrial TV have earned him a global fanbase.

“If I got a quarter of the support Barry got, I’d be happy,” he says. “About 20m people tuned in to watch him beat [Eusebio] Pedroza in ’85.”
Frampton certainly isn’t far off breaking into the British sporting mainstream. He enjoyed 75 per cent of Ireland’s television audience watching him for his past two fights. He’s packed out the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on every occasion he’s headlined a show, and his support back home is as feverish as it is loyal.

The old boxing adage “styles make fights” couldn’t be truer of Frampton against Quigg, plus there’s the tantalising prospect of two unbeaten champions facing one another – but the interest in the bout runs deeper than that. There’s a genuine animosity between the two camps that has been simmering for the past two years, and it’s quickly become very personal.

“I think the rivalry and the history between our teams is a big thing,” he admits. “When we were with Matchroom, Eddie Hearn said I was going to ‘knock Scott Quigg out’, then when I left, he signed Scott and said the exact opposite.

“He’s been very well-hyped by Sky, and the fact this has been bubbling under the surface for so long makes it so interesting.”

For Frampton, one thing is sure – he’s going into the lion’s den with the might of Northern Ireland behind him. “It’s not daunting, it’s something I can feed off . To be honest, I think Quigg is going to be the one who’s shell-shocked by the atmosphere.

“What’s going to happen in Manchester – and it is going to happen – is he’s going to be fighting in his own backyard, but most of the supporters are gonna be mine. I wouldn’t like the feel of that if it were in Belfast, my hometown, the other guy getting a better reception. I don’t know if he will be able to deal with that.”

We’ll find out, soon enough.

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