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Carl Frampton talks Leo Santa Cruz III, the Cyclone split and that extra pound he just couldn't shift

Carl Frampton says the man he really wants is Leo Santa Cruz
Andy Watters

WORLD featherweight champions Lee Selby and Gary Russell jnr are on the radar, but the fight Carl Frampton craves is a third – and defining – rumble with Leo Santa Cruz.

In the aftermath of his high-profile split with Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions and coach Shane McGuigan, ‘The Jackal' hopes to entice ‘El Terremoto' to Windsor Park next year to settle their rivalry once and for all.

“The guy I want to fight is Leo Santa Cruz,” said Frampton at Friday night's EPIC ‘Evening with Carl Frampton' event in Belfast.

“Trilogies are always a good thing, you have all these rivalries in boxing and a lot of guys have fought each other a number of times.

“It was hard after I lost (in Las Vegas), I was down in the dumps for a while and pretty depressed but, when I thought about it, I had a bad night, a bad performance and I lost a close fight to a three-weight world champion.

“He boxed out of his skin and I didn't perform but I still pushed him pretty hard. If I'm performing and on my game then I think I can beat him again.

“I want to fight Santa Cruz, I want to fight Gary Russell, I want to fight Abner Mares – just names, I want names.”

After six months out of action Frampton's comeback fight against Andres Gutierrez was overshadowed by his failure to make the nine-stone featherweight limit and then scuppered entirely after the Mexican was injured following a slip in his hotel room. Frampton has admitted he was more than half-stone over-weight the day before the ill-fated fight.

“I shouldn't have missed the weight,” he said.

“Mentally I probably wasn't in the right place and that's what happened.

“People didn't see what I tried to do the night before.

“The night before, I was nine pounds over the weight.

“I left Monkstown Gym before the weigh-in a pound overweight and I went back to the Europa Hotel and got into a hot bath with three kilos of salt in it.

“I tried to lose the other pound but there was nothing left to lose. I tried, but being a professional I should have done it (the weight). I apologise for it.”

Outlandish conspiracy theories did the rounds after the Gutierrez rumble was cancelled, but Frampton insists that the truth was told.

“Gutierrez fell in the shower, that's what happened,” he said.

“He slipped. It's nuts when you think about it, but he fell and knocked a couple of teeth out, cut his chin, cut his nose and the doctor, rightly, wouldn't allow him to fight.

“In fairness, he was asking to fight. One of his teeth was pushed up into his gum and he was asking for it to be pulled out because he wanted to fight. But the British Board of Control wouldn't let him fight. That's what happened.

“People were saying ‘They've sent someone in to beat him up'. But the kid wanted to fight, these guys come from Mexico are brave and they'd fight anyone. They're not the wealthiest guys in the world and they want a good payday but it wasn't to be.”

After the loss to Santa Cruz in January, then trainer Shane McGuigan admitted he had been “mugged off” by the Mexican's transformation from front-foot pressure fighter to back-foot boxer.

“Trainers usually come up with a plan and Shane McGuigan is a very, very good coach – one of the best coaches in world boxing,” said Frampton.

“It (his plan) worked before; it just didn't work that time. I got it wrong as well, I had an off night and that's it.

“I had two good training camps and I had no real injuries or issues going into the fight in Vegas.

“I trained hard, I was fit but I just got a few things wrong tactically on the night and I was chasing the fight, which isn't my game.

“I was caught between two styles of fighting, sometimes I was trying to fight him, sometimes I was trying to box him and I was stuck in the middle.

“He out-smarted me really and that's the thing. We didn't think Santa Cruz could fight like that, we thought he was going to come head-first and we got it wrong.”

Looking ahead, Frampton wants to return to the ring before Christmas so he can celebrate the festive period with wife Christine and their two young children.

“I can't remember the last time I had a proper Christmas off,” he said.

“If I have a fight in December or the end of November I can enjoy Christmas with Christine and the kids. If I don't fight until January or February I'll have to train over Christmas so I'll need to make a decision pretty soon.

He added: “I love fighting in Belfast but obviously it depends on who I go with, that would dictate where it is.

“If I fight at home before the end of the year it has to be the Odyssey Arena because Windsor Park can happen from about April next year to September so we have a big window to potentially do Windsor Park. Whoever I go with, I'll be telling them that that's what I want to do.

“2016 was the best year of my professional career.

“I was boxing out in America, I was Fighter of the Year, I was Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year and then 2017 has been pretty disastrous.

“I lost and then that fight fell through and everything else. But I don't think it's going to be the end. I think I can get big fights, I sell tickets and that's what earns me and other fighters' money and they still want to fight me because they see me as a name.”

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