Boxing

Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington promise Christmas cracker

Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington at the press conference at the Clayton Hotel, Belfast yesterday
Andy Watters

YOU wonder what Connor McGregor would have made of it all.

Then again, who really cares what he thinks? The Dubliner spits out venomous smack-talk at opponents at the drop of a hand truck but even after three days in each other’s company IBF featherweight rivals Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington remained gentlemanly and polite in Belfast yesterday.

There wasn’t a cross word or a threat. Not even the hint of an insult.

Instead there was by-play and an occasional bit of banter so we can say for certain that there is no needle between the IBF featherweight champ Warrington and the pre-fight bookies’ favourite Frampton.

Of course, trash talk doth not a great fight make. It's never been Frampton's style and the lack of needle doesn’t mean we won’t see a memorable scrap in Manchester on December 22.

Warrington observed yesterday: “How many times have you seen build-ups to fights and you think: ‘Oh this is gonna be a blinder’. You pay your 20 quid and it’s a stinker?”

A smiling Frampton butted in: “He’s talking about me and Scott Quigg there.”

The build-up to Frampton-Quigg in Manchester two years ago threatened to boil over several times but the fight was a damp squib. Frampton-Warrington looks likely to be the other way around because winning means everything for both of them, particularly ‘the Jackal’, and they will throw everything at each other.

At 31, a loss for Frampton would leave him at a very difficult career crossroads, meanwhile defeat would see Warrington (27) lose his title at the first defence and see him drop several rungs back down the ladder.

Frampton received a typically raucous welcome from Belfast fight fans at the Carlton Hotel yesterday and he admitted he was “harping on a bit” (well aware that he had said basically the same thing at the press conferences in London and Leeds) when he predicted: “It’s going to be a very good fight, a very exciting fight and a tough fight.”

In fairness, how do you answer questions about the same fight without repeating yourself?

“I’m looking forward to it,” he added (again).

“A year ago I was being written off - I was done, I was over the hill… But I believe my last two performances have been two of my better performances of my whole career and I believe the time is right to push on and win what would be my fourth world title and go from there.

“But I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a seriously hard fight, I know Josh well enough and I don't think there’s an ounce of quit in him. I think that’s what is going to make it exciting.”

Meanwhile, Warrington received a polite round of applause when he took his seat and predicted a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender in Manchester. The Leeds native has been at more Frampton fights that some paid up ‘Jackal Army’ members – he was in Manchester for Quigg, Las Vegas for Santa Cruz II and Windsor Park for Jackson – so he knows exactly what he’s getting into.

“I have been keeping an eye on Carl over the last few years and I have watched his career as a fan,” he said.

“When he moved to featherweight I watched him as a potential opponent.

“Carl says he is in the best shape of his life, while I feel I am just reaching my peak years. I had a great win over Lee Selby back in May and as soon as I got back to the dressing room I thought 'who's next?'

“I can't wait for the night and you guys will be in for a real treat; that is for sure.”

Warrington (27-0) has strong Belfast connections. His grandfather Edward O’Hagan hailed from the Falls Road and he is trained by his dad Sean who works him hard.

“He’s been my trainer from day one and it’s not always easy,” said Warrington.

“Sometimes, even if he’s wrong, he’s still right.

“I see him with other fighters saying: ‘Get your fight hand up’ and with me it’s: ‘Eee, ya little tosser, get yer right ’and up or am gonna chin ya’. I’ve had that from I was 15 years old and: ‘You’re getting no tea if you don’t perform tonight’.

“It is difficult but when we win the nights are that bit sweeter. We’ve come through the stages together. I’m his lad and he’s not going to want his lad to fail and he’s going to do everything he can do to make sure I’m well prepared and very much ready for the fights.”

Of course their biggest night came when Warrington dethroned long-term IBF champ Lee Selby back in May. Warrington was the underdog at Elland Road that night but he gave weight-drained Selby no respite over a relentless 12-rounds.

But Frampton warns that Warrington will be up against a genuine featherweight at the peak of his considerable powers in Manchester.

“Selby is a big featherweight. I remember looking at him in New York a couple of years ago and he must have been 11 and-a-half stone and I said to my team: ‘Now is the time to get him because you put the pressure on him and he’ll die in the second half of the fight’,” he said.

“Josh fought him differently, he fought smart, he was moving around and I thought he picked his attacks pretty well. It’s not easy to make featherweight, I’m short in height but I feel like I’m a big, solid featherweight now. I’ve grown into the weight perfectly and I feel like I’m a big-punching featherweight.”

Two years ago Warrington wasn’t in Frampton’s league but his rise and the Jackal’s dip has brought them together now.

“I always think boxing is about timing and I have never said I thought Carl was done,” said Warrington.

“You can only fight who is put in front of you so I am under no illusions and won't be going in there thinking it is only a 75 per cent Carl or he is not the same Carl as when he boxed Quigg or Santa Cruz.

“I will be preparing for the very best Carl Frampton, like I do with all my opponents. I've worked hard to win this title and I don't plan on giving it up any time soon.”

Warrington has the belt and Frampton needs it. No trash talk but a great fight? You’d settle for that.

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