LONDON (April 4) - Carl Frampton is in buoyant mood ahead of his world title eliminator tonight that could set up a blockbuster showdown with Mexican superstar Leo Santa Cruz.
The Belfast bulldog must first, however, get through the impending challenge of another hardened Mexican in Hugo Cazares when he faces the wily veteran at a sold out Odyssey Arena in Belfast for a shot at Santa Cruz’s WBC crown.
The star power of Frampton has become ever more apparent over the last year, with tickets to see the darling of the Irish faithful becoming harder to obtain with each passing fight.
As the Ulsterman’s star glows ever brighter his clash with the 36-year-old Cazares, live and exclusive on BoxNation, represents the final hurdle before the world title chance he has dreamed of his whole life, but he’s not expecting it to be plain sailing.
“I think it’s going to be a tough fight,” Frampton told BoxNation. “He’s easily the most experienced guy I’ve ever fought. I think that it could be tricky for a while. He likes to switch hit. He likes to throw wide shots, which could be dangerous. People say it’s the ones you don’t see that knock you out,” he said.
“I’ll need to be careful, that’s for sure, but I’m ready to fight at a very, very high pace for 12 rounds. This guy is tough - he really is tough. He hasn’t been stopped since 1999 I read somewhere. So, I’m hoping to look impressive, get the win first and foremost, but I want to get rid of this guy and I honestly think that I will,” he said.
In a stacked weight class that includes names such as Guillermo Rigondeaux, Kiko Martinez, Scott Quigg and Santa Cruz, the super-bantamweight division represents one of boxing’s most competitive.
The 27-year-old Frampton, however, is confident in his punching prowess, having stopped 12 of his 17 opponents, and is sure that he can blow any of them away, starting with Cazares tonight.
“I think I can stop Cazares and I genuinely believe I’m the hardest punching super-bantamweight in the world. I think I can stop any of these guys if I hit them on the chin. And, actually, walking through the divisions, I think I could stop anyone from up to featherweight or super featherweight,” said Frampton.
“Without blowing my own trumpet, I’ve got very, very heavy hands and it’s just about landing the shots and landing the clean shots. Sometimes, when I fight I like to fight at a relaxed pace when I could’ve got rid of opponents a few rounds sooner. But that’s something as well that we’ve been working on, trying to fight at a higher pace.
“And we think the pace is probably one of the things that’s going to get this guy and it’s all coming together. I think, get the win - that’s the most important thing, but I would be hoping to stop him as well,” Frampton said.
A victory over the former super-flyweight and light-flyweight world champion Cazares will then set up a dream bout against Santa Cruz later this year.
Golden Boy Promotions, who look after the Mexican, will be in attendance for tonight’s bout, with a Frampton clash likely to generate huge interest either side of the Atlantic according to manager Barry McGuigan.
“I absolutely believe that [we’re on the cusp of seeing a new sports star] and I believe he can be a crossover star. What’s more, I don’t just mean to the general public, I mean across the Atlantic. I think he can be a big star in America too. And having an Irish background as well is going to help him enormously,” said McGuigan.
The United States, particularly the West Coast, where the 25-year-old Santa Cruz - who is unbeaten in 28 contests with 15 knockouts – has fought regularly, would be the favourite location to host the fight.
McGuigan, though, is unfazed where the fight is held and is confident his young charge will be just too much for the reigning champion.
"There's no guarantee that we'd be able to get it in Belfast,” said McGuigan. “But either way, we feel Carl has a great chance against Santa Cruz and we are very comfortable about that fight. We're happy to travel but we'd much prefer to be at home. The problem is getting an arena big enough, because Carl sold the place out in 10 days. I reckon we could have sold 15,000 for this one and we could certainly sell 20,000 for Santa Cruz."
Frampton vs. Cazares is live on BoxNation (Sky 437/490HD & Virgin 546) tonight at 6pm. Visit www.boxnation.com to subscribe.