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Carl Frampton on the threshold of a new level of greatness

By David Kelly

Carl Frampton has already secured his place in Northern Ireland sporting folklore but in the early hours of tomorrow morning he will seek an historic feat to rival any achievement by anyone from this little land.

A unified World super-bantamweight title holder, the Jackal now bids to become the featherweight champion of the world and to do so he must overcome a man who has already ruled in three weight classes.

The Barclays Centre, Brooklyn - now often used in preference to Madison Square Garden - is the stage for Frampton's bid to dethrone WBA 9st king Leo Santa Cruz, live coast-to-coast on cable giant Showtime with a worldwide audience also tuning in, including in the UK through BoxNation.

Frampton will struggle to ever eclipse the context of this sporting occasion as he seeks to become the first Northern Ireland boxer to become a multi-weight World champion - and join the pantheon of elite fighters throughout the Noble Art's history who have conquered the globe in more than one division.

Victory would take his profile to a whole new level in the States and having already engaged the Americans with his down to earth personality, this would truly be lift-off for the 29-year-old in the land of opportunity.

Santa Cruz has the relentless punching style to potentially mix with that of Frampton's natural, smart box-fighting skills and in that sense this is a win-win scenario for both men who can rubber stamp their box office appeal.

Indeed, if the duel lives up to the mouthwatering expectations of all within the boxing fraternity, then a return in the States or Belfast would seem highly likely.

The boxing chiefs - and most notably television bosses - are in need of fighters who can draw the figures required and Frampton-Santa Cruz has every fan salivating at the prospect of a 12-round brawl to live long in the memory.

Some may have had similar thoughts ahead of Frampton's much-hyped Manchester Arena clash with bitter rival Scott Quigg but the Jackal's significant edge in ring generalship was always going to allow for the door to open to the kind of battle which unfolded - and in addition the Bury man came up with some very tentative tactics in the opening six rounds.

It is hard to imagine the Mexican bringing such an approach at the opening bell as he seeks to wreck Frampton's bid for history. Rather, this could well go down as a mini-classic.

Both fighters certainly believe that will be the outcome to a fight that has been mooted for three years, when both held versions of the World super-bantamweight title.

"I have wanted the Santa Cruz fight for a long time now. But in hindsight, I wanted it when I was a super-bantamweight, when I wasn't performing at my best because of the weight making issues. It's probably better for me now that it's actually happening at featherweight," said Frampton.

"He is a three-weight World champion, but he started at bantamweight. Although he's taller than me, I don't think he's a bigger man than me, and I think I'm going to be much stronger than him on the night.

"I'm going to be punching harder, and with me moving up to featherweight I think it suits me more than if the fight had happened at 122 pounds."

Promoter Lou DiBella certainly believes that Frampton could take his career to a new level Stateside should he overcome Santa Cruz.

He said: "I'm a big fan of Carl, he's got a great personality and can really fight but I didn't enjoy the Scott Quigg fight and I don't blame him, it was to do with Quigg's style and although he was in an entertaining fight with Alejandro Gonzalez last summer in Texas, this is the fight he will be heavily judged on by boxing fans here. If Carl wins then he becomes a major star and he can have huge fights with anyone around featherweight.

"It's a big fight for boxing - any time you have the best fighting the best, it's big. This is immense for the careers of both fighters. Santa Cruz is a big star with American and Latino fans and Carl is a unified super-bantam champion and stylistically I can't see why this will not be a great fight. It could make for a real war."

DiBella may well be right and Frampton has the power in either hand to land the equaliser around the 10th - or make history on the scorecards after a memorable encounter.

Frampton v Santa Cruz is exclusively live on BoxNation this Saturday night. Buy now at boxnation.com

Belfast Telegraph

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