Carl Frampton talks Martinez title fight, Quigg and Rigondeaux
Some might say the stars have aligned perfectly for the unbeaten Carl Frampton to defeat Kiko Martinez this Saturday night. Although he will enter the ring as challenger, the multi-faceted boxer puncher has home court advantage in Belfast and already owns a stoppage victory over the spirited Spanish slugger who was deemed unfit to continue in the ninth round of their frenetic first encounter.
Battered but unbowed Martinez (31-4, 23 knockouts) rose from the ashes to wrench the IBF junior featherweight title from Jhonatan Romero and has made two profile bolstering defenses, the irony of which is not lost on the Northern Irishman who is wrapping up final preparations for this eagerly anticipated sequel.
“Kiko got what should have been my opportunity when he fought Romero,” said Frampton, who is 18-0 (13 KOs). “Romero had the option of a voluntary defense and we were in negotiations when he ruptured his bicep. We were told he would be unable to box until late September and then he suddenly agreed to fight Martinez in August.
“Kiko had his chance and took it, but Romero was one of the weaker champions out there. In terms of title defenses Jeffrey Mathebula was past it and Hozumi Hasegawa, which was Kiko’s best performance, is also a shot fighter in my eyes. None of these guys are anything like me. Kiko may have improved a little, but I’m improving all the time.”
The odds makers are in complete agreement because at time of writing the challenger was a prohibitive, and surprising, 6/1 favorite in a two horse race. He did score a quality one-punch knockout in the ninth round of the first encounter, but it should be pointed out that Frampton was forced to earn his successes against Martinez.
“This is definitely a tough fight and I don’t pay much attention to the odds,” said the 27 year old. “I know how difficult the first fight was and that’s why I’ve trained so hard for the rematch. I’ve put everything on the line and I’m busting my balls in every single session. I’ve made the sacrifices that are required, because my goal is to be world champion.
“Anything can happen in boxing and this is a dangerous sport, particularly when you’re in against a puncher of Kiko’s caliber. I need to be at the top of my game and if I am then I should be the favorite. I’m more skilled, I punch harder and I take a better shot. I’m a well-rounded fighter who is just slightly better, in every department, than Kiko.”
The one area where Frampton truly excels is his versatility and Martinez will struggle to match that. The defending titleholder only engages forward gears, so “The Jackal” knows precisely what to expect from his old foe.
Frampton said, “He’ll bring the same aggressive style to the rematch. It’s not like he’s going to start boxing on his toes because he’s never done that in his career. He’ll be rough and relentless, perhaps a little more refined, but I’ll be able to deal with whatever he brings.
“Truthfully, I didn’t catch Kiko flush until the ninth round of the first fight. He does have good head movement and a lot of my work was catching him on top of the head. Believe me, if the shot I finished him with had landed in round one then he would have been knocked out early doors.”
So if the fighter, his team, the odds makers and the entire population of Northern Ireland are correct then what will follow a repeat victory over Martinez? The one bout which continues to simmer is a domestic showdown with the talented Scott Quigg from Bury, England, but Frampton was keen to point out his superiority over THE RING’s No. 4-rated junior featherweight.
“I desperately want that fight,” said Frampton, with passion. “It’s important for me not to look past Kiko but the Scott Quigg fight is massive. To be honest there are tougher opponents at junior featherweight and, as far as I’m concerned, there is close to ten fighters in this weight class who are better than Quigg.
“Still I want to settle the score. I think Quigg and I could do 25,000 fans and it’s just a question of where it happens. There are no indoor venues in Belfast big enough to host it but I would happily come to Manchester, no problem whatsoever. I’m the draw and if I beat Martinez, then I’m the guy with a genuine belt.”
Speaking of genuine THE RING champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux, has the same bogeyman reputation at 122 pounds as Gennady Golovkin does at 160. Frampton, who is THE RING’s No. 1 contender at junior featherweight, has nothing but respect and admiration for the Cuban sensation but still acknowledged his desire to face him.
“He’s the main man in the division,” said Frampton instantly. “If I win against Kiko then I can rightfully call myself a world champion, but I can’t say I’m the best at 122 pounds until I beat Rigo. It’s a fight that I definitely want to happen because I’ve always said that I want to be the best and he’s the best in my eyes.
“Rigondeaux is a helluva fighter but, although he’s been in against top opposition, he has been on the floor. The guys who had him down couldn’t finish him, but those guys don’t punch as hard as me and I have a chance in any fight providing I land cleanly. Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz are opponents I’m interested in but one day I would definitely like to fight Rigo.”
Frampton is promoted by Cyclone Promotions, managed by former WBA featherweight champion Barry McGuigan and trained by Shane McGuigan (Barry’s son). His evolution, as a fighter, has been flawless to this point and the proof is in the results. Also, in terms of fan affection, he is one of the most revered and beloved fighters in boxing today.
“The fans are amazing,” said Frampton, with pride. “People always mention my fan base and I tell them to wait until I’ve won a world title. We’ve sold out a 16,000-seat temporary arena, which has been built especially for this fight. The government is behind me, my local support, fans from the UK mainland, and even further afield.
“I’ve got a lot to be grateful for and it’s been a massive team effort. My performances, since I began training full time with Shane, have gotten better and better and he is one of the top coaches in the UK right now. I also give Cyclone Promotions so much credit for bringing Martinez to Belfast and he is being paid a great deal of money to do so.
Frampton continued, “A win would mean so much to my family. In my amateur days, when I had no money, my mum and dad were funding me. Then I met my future wife and we lived off her student loans for a while. I would happily dedicate a world title victory to all of them, because they’ve been there from the start.
“There is already a great buzz around the city and so many people expect me to win this fight. I want to live up to their expectations and I don’t want to let anyone down. It’s also the first time that my daughter, Carla, will be attending a fight so she’ll be ringside watching it. There is just so much motivation for me to win.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing