Look out Frampton - Kiko Martinez can shatter Belfast's dream
World champion Kiko Martinez has the brutal power to ruin what could be a memorable night for 16,000 Northern Ireland boxing fans at Titanic Quarter on Saturday, according to reigning European featherweight champion Lee Selby.
Unbeaten Carl Frampton is on the cusp of realising his World title dream but Welshman Selby, who has been in Alicante working as the Spaniard's main sparring partner, says he will be facing an improved fighter from the one he defeated 18 months ago in the Odyssey Arena.
Selby said: "Kiko and I had some great sparring. He was really strong and punches very hard, I would say he's right up there with some of the hardest punchers that I have ever been with.
"He was also quite hard to hit. Normally after the first round I find my range with the jab but he was still making me miss. His new trainer seems to have slowed him down a little and his defence has improved a bit."
But despite that, Selby – and his coach Chris Sanigar – believe the fight is too close to call.
Selby added: "It depends on the tactics of the fighters, if Kiko follows him around the ring he could get outboxed again and if Carl decides to take it to Kiko then he might get caught and Kiko could reverse the first fight.
"It's hard to tell because they are both very big punchers and one punch could decide the fight. I don't see it going the distance, I think someone is going to get caught and get stopped."
Coach and manager Sanigar watched over the sparring and having been at ringside for the first fight in the Odyssey – when Selby defeated Martin Lindsay – he expects another exciting duel.
"Kiko is a very tough fighter and I believe this is going to be a great fight. I think Kiko is better than he was before... watching him spar, he looked as if he had a greater awareness in the ring and he looked fitter and quicker across the ring. I really think this is a pick 'em fight, it's too close for me to call," said Sanigar.
"He's going to come with a lot more confidence and it's very hard to pick a winner. But I really believe that every Irish fight fan should be going to see this because it is going to be a great fight.
"For Kiko to win he will have to cut off the ring and if he does that he can hurt anyone, he can hit with either hand. But Frampton is a very good fighter and the McGuigans will have their game plan and he has been in with him before so he knows what to expect from Kiko.
"Frampton will certainly have to be at his very best to beat Kiko this time."