Boxing

Carl Frampton confirms Mexican Horacio Garcia as 'homecoming' opponent

Carl Frampton will make his long-awaited return to the ring when he takes on Mexico's Horacio Garcia on November 18. Picture by Mal McCann

ANOTHER opponent named, another little-known Mexican – but a completely different feel from the mid-June announcement of Carl Frampton’s ultimately ill-fated showdown with Andres Gutierrez.

Then, despite attempts to sugar-coat the message at a packed Europa Hotel press conference, it was impossible to feel anything other than hugely underwhelmed.

Since losing his WBA world featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz at the end of January, the first defeat of Frampton’s career, all the talk had been about a possible trilogy fight with the Mexican at Windsor Park.

If not Santa Cruz, Abner Mares. If not Abner Mares, Lee Selby. If not Lee Selby, well, take your pick. Yet the more time that passed, the more deafening became the silence from Cyclone Promotions.

Gutierrez was announced six weeks before the scheduled date. It wasn’t the outdoor blockbuster that had been hoped for, but a return to the SSE Arena.

Even Frampton, more than once apologising for the failure to deliver a summer showdown at Windsor, appeared deflated, ever so slightly embarrassed even.

Barry McGuigan, in the last promotion the pair would work on together, was bullish. Expecting the obvious questions - ‘who?’ being the first among those - the Cyclone figurehead bristled.

“He’s one of the most avoided fighters in the featherweight division,” insisted McGuigan.

Really? He must be, because there’s barely as name of note on his record.

“He’s a dangerous fighter. This is a fight where Carl needs to be at his best…” et cetera, et cetera.

A fair whack of that press conference was spent talking up Gutierrez’s credentials. It is never a good sign when a fighter, manager or promoter feels the need to extol the virtues of an opponent in a bid to convince the ticket-buying public that, honestly, a fight could break out here.

Remember the amount of time Floyd Mayweather jr devoted to telling anybody who would listen that Conor McGregor was “a helluva fighter”?

He’s younger than me, pleaded Mayweather. I haven’t fought in two years. I’m old. He’s younger and hungrier than me. Go buy it. If you can’t get a ticket, buy the PPV.

Remember how that turned out?

That the Gutierrez fight fell out of bed at the last minute was probably a blessing in disguise for Frampton, who admitted afterwards he had struggled for motivation. The fact he missed the weight for the first time in his career tells its own tale.

Two months on from that debacle, the unheralded Horacio Garcia (33-3-1) was yesterday confirmed as his next opponent. It’s at the SSE Arena again. It will only be a 10-round fight, Frampton’s first since a decision win over Robbie Turley in 2011.

Garcia is far from a marquee name, yet there is only excitement at the prospect of seeing ‘The Jackal’ back between the ropes (though the fact Jamie Conlan fights for a world title on the undercard helps).

Considering Frampton has since split from Cyclone, started working under new trainer Jamie Moore and will have been out of the ring for 10 months by the time November 18 comes around, he was never going to return against one of the big boys in the 126lb division.

Boxing fans appreciate that Frampton needs time to develop a working relationship with Moore and will gladly pay out to watch his homecoming, with the promise of bigger fights being delivered by new promoter Frank Warren down the line.

Indeed, it is a testament to the popularity of the 30-year-old that, despite all the public disappointment that surrounded the fall-out from the 11th hour collapse of Gutierrez fight, there remains enormous level of goodwill towards him.

"This is a fight that really excites me,” said the Tigers Bay man yesterday.

“Garcia will definitely come and have a go. He's a typical Mexican warrior, he's tough and he's game and he'll try and put it on me in front of my home crowd.

"This fight has been a long time coming and it's good to be back out in Belfast."

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