Win or bust in Carl Frampton's world
Published 31/01/2014 | 08:30
So the money is down, the stakes are high and the world awaits to see if on April 4 at the Odyssey Arena Carl Frampton can secure his date with WBC super-bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz.
One could easily think the Belfast man has been here before. After all, Kiko Martinez had said he would gladly give the Jackal a re-match in a defence of his IBF World title. This rumbled on with Scott Quigg chirping in the background about a shot at his WBA title.
In the end both scenarios turned to dust. Martinez dodged Frampton in favour of an easier defence in Japan and negotiations for a Quigg fight didn't get past first base.
So, we wondered at yesterday's press conference to announce Frampton's WBC World title final eliminator with Mexican World number one Hugo Cazarez, when push comes to right hook will Santa Cruz be any different? Will he step up to the plate and face the winner?
Cyclone Promotions boss Barry McGuigan has no doubt that Santa Cruz will not play the same cat and mouse game. The path is now straightforward: beat Cazarez and Santa Cruz will be next.
"It's cost a fortune to get Cazarez here but we had to do it. They wanted the fight in Mexico, it could have been in the USA as well but we were never going to stop pushing until we could get the fight in Belfast," said McGuigan.
"It's a great statement for Cyclone Promotions that we are able to bring the fight here.
"The champion is entitled to nine months to 12 months. But Santa Cruz has said that he wants to fight Carl and we have been in discussions with Golden Boy Promotions and they are very keen for Santa Cruz to fight Carl. They think it is a great combination of styles.
"Santa Cruz has got a defence on March 9 against Cristian Mijares and he has to get past that first and Carl has to get past Cazarez.
"Santa Cruz would then be required to fight Carl – and he wants to fight him, so it's a win-win."
Frampton is also feeling a lot more relaxed about the path ahead, on the back of the frustrating time dealing with Martinez.
"I was in the room when we made the offer to Kiko and it was 10 times what he got when he fought me the last time and that's no exaggeration," said Frampton.
"If he had taken that fight this year he'd have been the highest paid super-bantamweight in the world. And he didn't take it, there was a re-match if he wanted it as well.
"Kiko didn't want the fight. I genuinely believe that Santa Cruz wants to fight the winner of this.
"This is a huge fight, Cazarez has won world titles at two different weights and he believes he has a third world title in him. No-one wants to come here and you have to give them a lot of dough and that's what we have done."
A summer showdown with Santa Cruz would be the expected outcome if he can overcome Cazarez, a world champion at light-flyweight and super-flyweight. Over the past two years the 35-year-old has been unbeaten at super-bantamweight, pushing himself into the position as number one challenger to Santa Cruz, while Frampton is at number two.
But for all the talk of a world title fight, Frampton is adamant that it will in no way distract him from the focus of his crunch battle with Cazarez.
"I learned earlier in my career about taking anyone lightly. It happened against Robbie Turley and that was probably the worst performance of my career," said Frampton.
"To be honest any fight I am having these days there is always talk about the next one. That's the way it is and although people say 'don't look too far ahead', I like to have a plan and to have goals and it just makes me even more hungry.
"It's good now that I know that if I beat Cazarez the world title shot is going to happen and I hope it can come to Belfast but I don't care where it is.
"I know that I can be world champion and I know that I can beat Santa Cruz. But if I don't beat Cazarez then the world title fight will not happen so I have to do the business on April 4."
Frampton will return to his London training base with coach Shane McGuigan to crank up their preparation for Cazarez whose experience at the highest level far outweighs that of the Belfast man, having won his first World title back in 2005.
Frampton added: "He likes to box at a slow pace so I think my intensity and pace will be key.
"We've already got a couple of sparring partners lined up who I think will be ideal preparation for the fight."
Promoter McGuigan said that he expected the show to be a multi-title event, though apart from young Conrad Cummings no other fighters have been confirmed for the supporting bill.
"It's going to be a great night of boxing, I can promise you that,"added McGuigan.
"There's a lot of young professionals in Belfast and they are building up their records but to get on the show they are going to have to step up and take a risk."
Tickets go on sale today from £40.