Carl Frampton puts boxing career on the line in Nonito Donaire showdown
WITH the clock ticking on the time he has left at the top, Carl Frampton puts his boxing future on the line in a winner-takes-all shootout with Nonito Donaire at the SSE Arena in Belfast tonight.
Frampton, who has come through the loss of his world title, the embarrassment of failing to make the weight for last summer's comeback and the ongoing messy split from Barry McGuigan, Shane McGuigan and Cyclone Promotions, needs a win to get his career back on track and finish it at the top and on his own terms.
Meanwhile, Donaire – AKA ‘The Filipino Flash' – has been there and done that and at 35, he is four years older than Frampton. Whether or not he is past his peak only tonight will tell but Donaire still wants to fight and has moved up to featherweight for another crack at the summit of world boxing.
As a four-weight world champion, his place in boxing's Hall of Fame is assured and he is confident he has the tools – including concussive one-punch power – to poop the party at the SSE Arena tonight.
“We're very confident going into this fight,” said the affable Donaire.
“My wife and I, we feel like we're married to Carl because when we wake up, we see Carl, when we sleep, we see Carl. Everything we do, we see Carl.
“Carl is an amazing fighter. Seeing him in all his fights, seeing what his tendencies are… You have to give to it to the guy for taking this fight because for a long time I was the bogey man in boxing but he has chosen this fight because it inspires him and I came to Belfast because it inspires me.
“This is going to be a fight that is incredible.”
Donaire has been remarkably relaxed all week, enjoying the build-up and smiling, singing, dancing and chatting to all and sundry.
He says he'll only become the fearsome KO artist who was named Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year back in 2012 when he ducks through the ropes into the squared circle at the SSE Arena tonight and adds that he is “a late bloomer”. He's confident that his second spell at featherweight will work out better than his first, which ended with a brutal knockout loss at the hands of Nicholas Walters back in 2014.
Donaire returned to super-bantam after that defeat and regained his world title before being out-gunned by Jessie Magdaleno 18 months ago and moving up to nine-stone once again.
But the same deficiencies that hampered him four years ago are still there and Frampton – a natural featherweight – will be the bigger man in the ring tonight.
“I'm really excited about this fight and I have been since it was first talked about,” said Frampton.
“To have a guy like Nonito Donaire coming to Belfast to fight me… I feel it's a bit of an honour and I'm lucky that it's happening in Belfast as well and I'm not having to travel.
“It's a quality fight.”
During training Frampton combined blood, sweat and tears with coach Jamie Moore with altitude running in Tenerife and brought in nutrition and strength and conditioning experts.
He made the nine-stone limit for tonight's fight with no major issues, but we'll only truly know what sort of shape he is in when Donaire lands with a big shot.
“I genuinely believe that the camp I've had has been the best camp because it has been the smartest camp,” he said.
“I've had a new approach to training and all the boxes have been ticked.
“I don't remember having a bad day in training, or a bad day in sparring – I feel like everything is coming together and I'm ready to put on a big performance in front of my home crowd.”
Of course the “home crowd” will be baying for a Frampton win. In the aftermath of those giddy Cyclone days, some of his more fickle fans may have fallen off the bandwagon, but the SSE Arena will be jumping tonight when he makes his walk to the ring.
“I feel lucky and privileged and honoured that I have such a fanbase and such an amazing support,” he said.
“They are fanatical and they make a lot of noise. For anyone coming into that atmosphere, you need to be mentally very strong and I think Nonito is.
“But I've always said that the crowd adds something to my game and, when you talk about small margins at the very top end of sport, a few per cent here and there adds something to my performance.”
In his comeback fight against Horacio Garcia last year, Frampton looked ragged when he tried to assert himself early on. He will look to take charge again, but this time he'll start behind the jab, flicking it into Donaire's face and then, when he settles, he'll look for the right hand.
Donaire – blessed with a game-changing left hook – has firepower, so Frampton will have to be patient, move position constantly and keep the pace up so he isn't allowed to settle.
As the fight develops, Frampton's physical superiority should become an increasing factor and he has the brain and all-round skillset to dictate the pace and force Donaire into the mistakes that will cost him the fight.
There has been speculation that Frampton is “on the slide”. He will prove emphatically that isn't the case with a clear points win tonight.