Desert storm... Carl Frampton and Jamel Herring clash for WBO super-featherweight title
DRIVE a few miles out the Al Awir road and the glass, steel and traffic of modern Dubai gradually fade away until all that remains is The Empty Quarter; the age-old ocean of sand baked by a merciless sun beating down from above.
The heat is oppressive, the air is stifling and the desert is a dangerous, unwelcoming place. But the arena at Caesar’s Palace – indoors and air-conditioned with water on tap – will be just as treacherous for Carl Frampton if he lets his guard down for a second tonight.
Belfast’s Jackal, the man who packed out the Odyssey Arena on night after glory night and took an army of fans with him to Manchester, New York and Las Vegas on his way to winning world titles at super-bantam and featherweight, bids to make history and only Jamel Herring stands in his way.
“To win this fight I will need to get it perfect on the night,” said Frampton.
“The way I have been training and what I have been doing in preparation for this fight; if I carry it on Saturday I will win.
“There’s a different feeling for this one for me – I just feel like everything is aligning, the stars are coming together and it’s going to happen.”
Only skill and bravery will win the belt for Frampton. He will find WBO super-featherweight king Herring – a man who has had to come through a tough upbringing, two tours of Iraq with the US Marines and the heartbreak of losing a child - stubborn and ruthless.
“We have prepared ourselves for the best version of Carl Frampton,” he said.
“We know what’s on the line for him and whenever you put that into your mindset you have to prepare for the best.”
Frampton bids to make history by becoming the first fighter from an island that has punched above its weight and produced so many greats - from Jimmy McLarnin to Steve Collins (both two-weight world champions), Rinty Monaghan to Dave Boy McAuley and Barry McGuigan to Katie Taylor - to win titles in three weight divisions.
He is 34 now and Herring is 35, so both men put their boxing futures on the line. A terrific fight is in store and, while the winner can look forward to more nights like tonight, the loser will spend time in his own Empty Quarter…