Frampton ready to hit U.S. television against Gonzalez Jr.
Like his manager, and mentor, Barry McGuigan, Carl Frampton has become both a world titleholder and a “Pied Piper” figure is his home city of Belfast, Northern Ireland and that vast popularity continues to soar.
In February, two-million British and Irish viewers watched “The Jackal” vanquish Chris Avalos in five rounds on terrestrial television and, this Saturday, the 28-year-old boxer-puncher will be showcased free, on both sides of the Atlantic, when he defends his IBF junior featherweight title against Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. at the Don Haskins Convention Center in El Paso, Texas.
“I’m so happy to be fighting live on CBS, as well as on ITV back home” said Frampton. “Bringing back those great nights of action to terrestrial television is massive for the sport and it’s been the goal of mine for a long time. Boxing is a working-class sport but working-class people can’t see it because it’s been hidden away on satellite and pay-per-view channels for so long.
“The exposure free television gives me means that I have the chance to become one of the biggest and most well-known British fighters for many years. It’s now up to me to look impressive when I’m performing and get the results. The British and Irish fans know what I can do and now I want the American fans to see me as well.”
The unbeaten Frampton (20-0, 14 knockouts) is THE RING No. 1-rated junior featherweight, behind champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, and the target for several of the key players at 122 pounds, foreign and domestic. Can the terrestrial television model work when Frampton enters super-fight territory?
“That’s the plan,” he said. “Boxing is a business and it’s a short career but I really want to keep all my fights on terrestrial television. I want the sport to have that exposure, as well as myself. Pay-per-view is not the only way to bring in revenue, despite what others may think, because big money can be generated in the form of sponsorship and advertising.
“I’m really hoping that we can bring the bigger fights back to terrestrial television also.”
And some of these bigger fights could be on the horizon. In what many viewed as a surprising move at the time, Frampton signed an agreement with American boxing adviser Al Haymon in May. The fiercely reclusive American will act as adviser to Team Frampton and also has a vested interest in keeping the sport, and the fighters on his books, in the mainstream.
Frampton said, “Al Haymon has a huge roster of fighters and this contract with Premier Boxing Champions. In America, he’s the man to open doors in terms of terrestrial television dates. Also, without his involvement, I think it would be hard to secure fights with the likes of Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares, so this move will be beneficial in terms of securing the big fights.
“I’m not getting carried away with myself but I am expected to look explosive against Alejandro Gonzalez and, if I perform at my best, then I should stop him. This is a showcase fight, although I can’t overlook him completely because he’ll be up for it. This is a chance for Gonzalez to make a name for himself but, being honest, I should blow him away.”
It’s natural for Gonzalez (25-1-2, 15 KOs) to be almost a forgotten man in the lead-up to this bout. Frampton is the overwhelming favorite and too much is at stake for him to make any slip ups against the 22-year-old Mexican. Frampton tried hard to suggest that there was a threat lurking in Texas but always felt the need to remind this reporter of the gulf in class.
He said, “I’ve seen bits of Gonzalez and he’s a good fighter. He’s tall and rangy, decent jab, goes to the body well and has good pedigree. He likes to keep the action long, but you always do comparisons when you look at an opponent and I do everything better than he does. I punch harder, I’m fitter, I’m more experienced and I’m undefeated.
“Everything is in my favor here but Gonzalez still poses an element of danger. His father upset Kevin Kelley [to win the WBC featherweight title] 20 years ago, also in Texas, and I’m sure he’ll be telling his son that he can duplicate that. He’ll be drilling it into him every day but it’s up to me to make sure there are no upsets this time.”
With Frampton making his US debut, one was compelled to ask if overseas business trips will become permanent. With the exception of England’s Scott Quigg, THE RING’s No. 3 at junior featherweight, all of Frampton’s main protagonists reside across the Atlantic. British star Amir Khan has always insisted that it’s easier to make big fights in America but Frampton was quick to point out that he will be commuting home and away.
“We’ve spoken about this already and I would like at least one fight a year at home,” Frampton said. “I want my next fight in 2015 to be in the UK or Ireland. I absolutely love boxing at home in Belfast and I think it will be hard to create that type of atmosphere anywhere else in the world. The doors will open in America but it’s very important for me to fight at home also.”
The big showdown British fans still want to see is against the aforementioned Quigg, who meets old Frampton victim Kiko Martinez on the same night that Frampton mixes with Gonzalez.
“I think that will be a really good fight,” offered Frampton. “I keep asking myself questions like, how much will Kiko want it? He’s lost twice to me, so is he still motivated? But you also have to factor in that this is the toughest fight of Quigg’s career to date. If you look at Scott’s resume, he is still to fight a puncher and Kiko can certainly bang. He’s fit and aggressive and, if it’s the same old Kiko, then he’ll give Quigg a lot of problems.
“There are people who think that I’m desperate for Quigg to win but, if I’m being honest, I don’t really care. I have loads of options available and if that fight doesn’t transpire, then I can carry on without him. I will still secure massive paydays and box on terrestrial television, so it really makes no difference.”
Despite Frampton’s surprising apathy at the Quigg match-up, his real feelings became apparent when he was asked who he wants next, should all go swimmingly against Gonzalez Jr.
“I feel like I’m contradicting myself but I still want to beat Scott Quigg,” said Frampton following a short pause. “I did say that I don’t care if Kiko beats him and, to be honest, I don’t but I want to prove Quigg wrong in the ring. He just needs to understand that I’m the A-Side in this deal and we can make it happen.
“I’m the draw in the fight. It’s not a unification bout because his title is WBA “regular” [Editor’s note: THE RING recognizes RING champion Guillermo Rigondeaux as the sole WBA titlist] and the IBF wouldn’t entertain it. I offered to fight him, as champion, in Manchester, on a 60/40 split, and his team wouldn’t accept it. We’ll see what happens in the future.”
And what will be the fate of Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., who everyone, with the exception of his own camp, feels is coming to San Antonio without enough bullets in his gun?
“If I box to the best of my ability, then I’ll get him out of there,” said Frampton.
Frampton vs Gonzalez Jr. will be screened live on ITV on Saturday July 18 from 9:45 p.m. In the United States, the bout will be shown as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series on CBS from 4.00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. PT.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing