Carl Frampton backs coach Jamie Moore to give him right advice in Nonito Donaire rumble

Super-welter Aaron McKennat hammered out a unanimous points win against Travis Conley on his pro debut
Andy Watters

CARL Frampton's former coach Shane McGuigan has admitted that he “arguably” got the tactics wrong when ‘the Jackal' lost his world featherweight title to Leo Santa Las Vegas last year.

Frampton and McGuigan split las year and Frampton says he'll be “getting sound advice from the corner” from new coach Jamie Moore when he takes on Nonito Donaire at the SSE Arena next month.

After George Groves beat Chris Eubank jnr recently, McGuigan indicated that he had to take a share of the blame for the loss to Santa Cruz saying: “This is my 10th fight at world title level.

“We've had nine wins, we've had one loss which was a majority decision against a three-weight world champion which, arguably, I got wrong and so did my fighter.”

McGuigan was criticised in the aftermath of the loss for dismissing Santa Cruz as a one-trick pony pressure fighter. In the event, Santa Cruz out-boxed Frampton over 12 rounds at the MGM Arena and McGuigan – who masterminded Frampton's world title wins against Scott Quigg, Kiko Martinez and in the first fight against Santa Cruz – was unable to come up with a workable ‘Plan B' on the night.

Frampton insists he'll have several gameplans in his locker when he takes on Donaire.

“I don't think it would be fair to compare Nonito Donaire to Chris Eubank junior, or even myself to him, we're much better fighters than he is,” he said.

“You need to have tactics, you can't just go out and think that Plan A is going to be the be-all and end-all. I feel I'm a fighter who can adapt if I have to if I'm getting sound advice from the corner which I believe I'll be from Jamie.”

Frampton predicts that his April 21 rumble will light the blue-touch paper for a spectacular summer of boxing in Belfast.

“It's going to be a great few months,” he said.

“Hopefully we'll see Paddy and Mick (Conlan) and maybe Ryan Burnett if Matchroom decide to come back. Even the small hall shows with Mark Dunlop and Mark Ginley so Beflast is buzzing at the minute and it's good to see.”

AARON McKenna dreamt of making his professional debut at New York boxing Mecca Madison. That dream was cruelly snatched away from him, but the level-headed Monaghan youngster quickly switched focus to fighting in Las Vegas (just over 2,500 miles away) the following weekend.

The rangy super-welter hammered out a unanimous points win against Travis Conley and is now back in the gym training for his second pro fight, against Adolfo Caro on March 9.

“It was dream of mine to debut at Madison Square Garden, but I had to take it on the chin,” admitted Goldenboy starlet McKenna - AKA ‘The Silencer' - who relocated from Smithboro to Los Angeles last year.

“The day after I was told that I would be fighting in Las Vegas, in the Mandalay Bay, so I had to refocus on that.

“Me and my brother Stephen went sparring at Gleeson's Gym in New York so I just focussed on the fight in Vegas. Goldenboy have promised me that I'll fight at Madison Square Garden on the next available date they have so I know I'll have chances to fight there again.”

Conley, his first opponent, gave him a decent test in Vegas and pushed the Monaghan youngster to the final bell.

“He was game, he came to win and he was tough,” said McKenna.

“I caught him with some cracking shots and dominated the fight so everything went well and I put on a great performance. My coaches were very impressed with me, they said I was mature and I had a pro-like style already and all the fans who came in after the fight seemed to be impressed – they were shouting my name ‘the Silencer' so that was good.”

He faces Caro on March 9 in California and has been tuning up for the fight in sparring sessions with some experienced fighters, among them 14-0 Argentine Fabian Maidana - younger brother of former Floyd Mayweather rival Marcos Maidana.

“Everything is going great for that fight,” he said.

“Training is going good, I've been getting great sparring with the likes of Alexis Rocha (10-0), Fabian Maidana so everything that I'm sparring is 10-0 or 15-0 so you couldn't get better sparring than that.

“I'm getting on great. I'm getting sharper every day and I'm learning a lot too, it's a great experience.

“This year Goldenboy have pencilled me in for eight fights, no less than six, so I'm going to be kept busy this year. Next year I'll be kept busy as well and hopefully by year three I'll be fighting for titles and by year four and five I'll be looking for the world titles, the big ones.

“I want to get plenty of experience under my belt and then push for the titles.”

Younger brother Steven is also based in Los Angeles there days and is expected to follow Aaron into the pro ranks.

“He's training with me and he's great company for me to have in camp,” said Aaron.

“He's testing the water out here, but keep an eye out for him.”

GEORGE Groves is to undergo surgery on the shoulder injury suffered during his victory over Chris Eubank jnr.

The WBA super-middleweight champion insists he can therefore be fit to fight Callum Smith (who recorded a points win over Nieky his semi-final) the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) 12-stone final if it can be postponed until July.

The 29-year-old dislocated his left shoulder during the final round of what was a convincing victory at the Manchester Arena, casting doubt on his ability to be ready for the match-up with Smith that had been scheduled for June 2 at London's 02 Arena.

He described the procedure as "minor" and is therefore confident of not only recovering his fitness but of their fight being delayed, instead of a replacement found so that the original date can be honoured.

"This morning I go in for a minor operation on my injured shoulder," Groves wrote on social media. "The good news is I'll be fit to fight in the final in July. We will be applying for a one-month extension and are hopeful of securing this."

Partly because of his status as the world's leading super-middleweight and his long-term relationship with WBSS promoters Sauerland, Groves is expected to be granted that extension. If he is not, alternative opponents, including Eubank Jnr and James DeGale, will be considered as replacements in the final against Smith.

DOWN in his changing room, Casey Blair could hear the crowd baying for blood.

Thousands of Londoners had descended on York Hall to cheer on his opponent Matt McCarthy who was the local favourite. Blair's legs were weak, his arms felt heavy and he didn't have a friend in the place.

“I was absolutely shitting myself,” he said.

“I was sitting thinking ‘What I am I doing here?' I was at a venue where there had been world title fights and I was thinking: ‘Am I good enough to be here?'

His first fight was to control the nerves that threatened to paralyse him as he got up for his ring walk. Would he have to be carried into the ring, never mind out of it?

“It was like a fight behind the bike sheds at school only this time it's like you're a second year standing there on your own and the other guy is an upper sixth and he has his da with him,” he said.

“I was worried I wouldn't even be able to make it to the ring. I was thinking: ‘Why now? Why am I feeling this now? I have to fight in a couple of minutes…

“I made it out, the smoke machines started, the lights, the TV cameras… I just kept thinking to myself: ‘You're tough enough to get through this, enjoy it, suck it in because how many people get to do this?'

“I got through the six rounds and the crowd enjoyed a good, tough tear-up.”

Blair was 3-0 when he had that fight late in 2015. It was his first fight as a journeyman and since it the Belfast light-middleweight/middleweight/super-middleweight/light-heavyweight has crammed in 35 defeats and a solitary win to take his career stats to 4-36.

See tomorrow's Irish News, for an in-depth feature on Casey Blair and his friend, training partner and fellow Belfast boxer Jamesie Gorman (8-46-1) who discuss their colourful careers as journeymen fighters.

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