Carl Frampton is eager to settle a score with Leo Santa Cruz as he prepares for his first world title challenge, on Saturday in Belfast, against IBF super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez.
After defeating Martinez in 2013 , Frampton was all set for a clash with Santa Cruz until the WBC champion’s promoters, Golden Boy, turned on the silent treatment, “His team didn’t want it – it’s that simple,” said Frampton, deep in training at McGuigan’s Gym in Battersea.
“After I won my WBC eliminator against Hugo Cazares [by second round knockout in April] I think it spooked them a bit. Before that they were really keen and my manager Barry McGuigan was in talks with some very powerful people.
But after I fought Cazares they turned to radio silence. Boxing is full of politics but Golden Boy is a huge company with a lot of influence so they could have taken the fight if they really wanted it.”
Frampton, 27, claimed he was “shocked” when Martinez accepted a rematch, especially considering how he punished the Spaniard over nine rounds to take his European title in February 2013.
“Although I’m surprised I’m very happy he’s taken the fight,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there and in terms of the Belfast public and the demand, this is a much bigger fight than Santa Cruz.
Martinez said he had some personal problems when we met before but to be honest, he would say that: he has to have some excuse. I read that he’s clinging on to how he perforated my eardrum in round four. I boxed on for five rounds after that and knocked him out, so if he thinks he can hurt me he’s wrong.”
The man from Tigers Bay added, “I plan on hitting him hard in the first few rounds and from then on he’ll remember what happened last time, because I hurt him a few times and then he was stopped. I’m assuming and thinking this is going to be a tough fight but it’s one I’ve prepared for.”
Still, Martinez has since regrouped to win the IBF title from Johnathan Gonzalez, going on to dominate Jeffery Mathebula and Hozumi Hasegawa in his first defences.
And while the Alicante man famously smashed Bernard Dunne inside a round in Dublin in 2007, it will be a tough ask for him to repeat the trick in front of 16,000 Belfast fans at a temporary stadium in the Titanic Quarter.
“I keep trying to imagine what it’s going to look like,” said Frampton. “I just think it’s going to look unbelievable. It’s a very historic setting with the slip where the Titanic was built and you can actually see it from my old house in Tigers Bay.
“Whenever we have 9,000 fans at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena it sounds unbelievable, but with 16,000 it’s going to be even better. A lot of people have worked hard to make this happen – the government have put their hands in their pockets too, so it’s very humbling.”
With that kind of pressure on his shoulders, how does Frampton stay calm? Does he look to his mentor, the revered McGuigan, for advice on how to deal with such fanfare?
Ever grounded, the Northern Irishman answered, “I’m not doing anything differently than if I was working an average 9-5 job, and if people like that, I like it. Barry’s a good man and gives me advice about everything, not just dealing with pressure. I like to think I’m pretty approachable so I’d rather people in the streets speak to me than not.”
If Frampton does grab a world title at the first time of asking, perhaps the likes of Santa Cruz, British rival Scott Quigg and Cuban magician Guillermo Rigondeaux will come calling.
“I don’t want these guys to put me on the backburner but you’ve got to carry on. Once I’ve got a world title the bigger fights will be there to make and there won’t be any stumbling blocks. The ball’s in our court once we beat Martinez.”
By Alistair Hendrie - originally posted on mirror.co.uk http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/boxing/carl-frampton-ready-take-ibf-4169542