Tuesday, March 28, 2023  |


Carl Frampton plans to pick up where he left off in 2016

Fighters Network

Carl Frampton said when he learned he was 2016 RING Fighter of the Year what many of us had been thinking for some time: “I had an amazing year last year.”

Is he just getting started?

The native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, had two fights in 2016, decisions over U.K. rival Scott Quigg in February and American Leo Santa Cruz in July. That was enough for him to win year-end honors and climb onto many pound-for-pound lists.

And he won over fans, in part because he was willing to accept difficult challenges.

Frampton (23-0, 14 knockouts) told THE RING that he fought Quigg (32-1-2, 24 KOs) in part because of the strong demand for the pay-per-view matchup of two, young British titleholders in their primes. He also took the fight because he wanted it.

Frampton won by a split decision – 116-112, 116-112 and a hard-to-understand 113-115 – and broke Quigg’s jaw in Manchester, near Quigg’s hometown.

“I wanted the fight to prove what I could do,” he said. “I really believed that I was just a better fighter than Quigg, if I’m being completely honest. I probably gave him a little more (money) than I needed to give him to make the fight happen … but I wanted the fight.

“It wasn’t a great fight; it was pretty dull, honestly. I feel I won the fight without getting out of first or second gear. I was never really in trouble at all. I felt good the whole way through.”

Frampton didn’t waste any time afterward, agreeing to jump up in weight to face then-unbeaten 126-pound titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) in New York.

It was a gutsy move that paid off: Frampton controlled the fight from beginning to end, winning a majority decision and setting up the year-end recognition he would later claim.

“I was the mandatory challenger when Leo Santa Cruz was the WBC 122-pound champ (which Santa Cruz gave up in 2015),” Frampton said. “I really wanted the fight back then. I had been after Leo for a number of years.

“When the fight was offered, there was absolutely no hesitation. Obviously there was a risk. I could’ve taken an easy fight (after Quigg). But that’s not what I’m about. I want to be involved in big fights.

“In February, I’ll become 30. I have a few years left. I’m in the prime of my life. I think that from here on in, to the end of my career, I want to be involved in fights that people are talking about.”

Hence Frampton’s subsequent decision to honor a rematch clause and fight Santa Cruz again immediately. They meet on January 28 in Las Vegas.

“I enjoyed the last fight,” Frampton said of their first meeting. “I needed to have the Santa Cruz fight after Quigg because that fight was such a boring fight. I didn’t want two boring fights back to back. And with Leo, you always get an exciting fight.

“The main thing is I enjoyed it, I was comfortable in there. It was tough fight; don’t get me wrong. I just enjoy that type of fight. And he was the champion and gave me a shot. I’m a man of my word. I was only happy to repay the favor and give him another chance.”

Frampton won his first meeting with Santa Cruz 117-111, 116-112 and the obligatory strange tally of 114-114, which most people believe didn’t reflect what happened in the ring.

To Santa Cruz’s credit, the always-aggressive Los Angeles-area fighter rallied to have his best rounds in the second half of the fight, although he didn’t do enough to win. Frampton doesn’t believe the same thing will happen this time.

“There are a few things I think I can change,” he said. “I can make the fight a little bit more comfortable in my favor. … I won’t make drastic changes; I think the game plan was pretty decent. We’ll just make little changes, little tweaks in the gym to make the fight more comfortable.

“He became more desperate (in the second half of the fight). And it was a raucous atmosphere. I stood a little more in the pocket than I needed to to make it a more exciting fight. I’m glad I did – I still got the win – but I probably shouldn’t have done that. I’ve been in the game long enough to fight to my strengths, not my opponent’s strengths.

“If I had continued to doing what I did in the first half, I think it would’ve been a more convincing win.”

At the same time, Frampton knows how he can make a bigger splash in the rematch than he did in the original.

“I’m expecting a long, tough fight but I believe I have the power to knock Santa Cruz out,” he said. “I hurt him a couple of times in the first fight. It would be a huge statement if I went and knocked this guy out. He’s a tough-chinned Mexican, though.

“If I can do that, it would be a huge statement and a great way to kick off the new year.”