Carl Frampton is an all-time great, says Dave McAuley
Former World champion Dave McAuley believes Carl Frampton is carving out a career that will see him go down as an all-time great British and Irish boxer.
Indeed, McAuley backed up Barry McGuigan's claim that the newly-crowned IBF/WBA super-bantamweight champion is the "greatest Irish fighter ever" on the back of his comprehensive points victory over long-time rival Scott Quigg in the Manchester Arena on Saturday night.
Before his adoring, passionate fans and with McAuley among many boxing heroes at ringside, Frampton delivered a consummate display of boxing at distance and close quarters but the former flyweight king believes the best is still to come - and that WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz is the man to take the Belfast ace to another level.
To many critics, former WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux is still seen as the number one super-bantamweight in the world despite his inactivity - which ends this month when the Cuban meets British champion Jazza Dickens in Liverpool.
McAuley, though, believes that the Jackal must be seen as the man looking down on the rest of the division and one indisputable fact is Frampton's position as the number one box office hit at 122lb as well as one of the biggest draws across the boxing landscape.
McAuley said: "Carl Frampton in my opinion is the greatest Irish fighter ever. It's hard to compare eras, particularly those fighters before the war, but for me Frampton is the best this island has ever produced.
"He has just unified two World titles which no other Irish fighter has done and I would love to see him win the WBC title from Hugo Ruiz to complete the set. I know the WBO belt is still available but for me the IBF, WBA and WBC belts remains the big three. For an Irish fighter to have all three belts would be amazing.
"When I was flyweight champion I was ranked number one with the other governing bodies and that was good enough for me but he has gone and done it and it's a great achievement. There's still people saying he has to beat Rigondeaux to prove he's the number one but in my opinion he doesn't need Rigo.
"If he was to fight Rigondeaux he would destroy him. Carl has that ability to step out of trouble and counter so well and really thump you. Rigondeaux has never had to face anyone like that so I would back Frampton.
"The one man who could really test Carl and force the very best from him is Leo Santa Cruz. It would be a step up in weight against a very good fighter and what a fight that would be.
"Santa Cruz is tall and throws lots of punches, it's a tough one to call because they would be so evenly matched but I still think after a great fight Frampton would come through to win.
"Frampton is the full package, he can box on the back foot or front foot and he can bang. The whole country is behind him, he's a lovely guy and the world is at his feet.
"Not only is he the best Irish fighter ever but post-war I would put him in the top five all-time British fighters right now and who knows just how far he will go. Already to my mind he's better than guys like Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.
"He's up there with guys like John Conteh and Lennox Lewis and he's heading for the top 10 pound for pound fighters in the world. He's not there yet but he's going that way."
As for Frampton's victory over Quigg, McAuley believes the manner of the outcome means there is no real appetite for a re-match.
"Carl Frampton proved what I had said all along, that he is a different class to Scott Quigg. It was like a Fiat against a Ferrari," added McAuley, who did give credit to Bury man Quigg for his fighting heart after having his jaw broken in the fourth round. "I take my hat off to Quigg for going through the pain barrier because I know what it's like to fight with a broken jaw. It happened to me in one of my early fights, my mouth was open and I got caught with a smashing right hand. The pain was unbelievable. If I hadn't knocked the guy out with a left hook I think I would have retired because I was in so much pain.
"But for his courage, Quigg wouldn't be able to anything differently in a re-match."
Meanwhile, experienced Belfast manager Pat Magee believes it is just "a little premature" to declare Frampton as the finest Irish fighter of all time.
"Carl is heading that way and he is equal to the best Irish fighters we have had but he needs a couple more World title wins to be the best ever," he said. "He certainly showed on Saturday night that he has all the attributes of a great fighter and the popularity he has is amazing."