Carl Frampton's secret weapon is little-known African with big future
Few cast a second glance at the willowy Ghanaian who weighed in for tonight's Odyssey Arena show at the Europa Hotel but if Carl Frampton has his hand raised in triumph, he will reserve some praise for Isaac Dogboe.
Throughout Frampton's preparation for his WBC World super-bantamweight title final eliminator with Hugo Cazares, 20-year-old Dogboe has been there pushing the Jackal in sparring, masking his Mexican opponent's style.
Dogboe hails from the city of Accra, home to many great African fighters such as former World welterweight champion Ike Quartey and featherweight legend Azumah Nelson – who never got to face Frampton's mentor Barry McGuigan – and there are those who believe he could be the next man to follow in such great footsteps.
Frampton, who tonight must rubber stamp his World title credentials or face being pushed well down the queue, is one of those who believes Dogboe is a young man headed for the top.
"Isaac is just a one-fight novice professional but this guy has the potential to be a world champion, no doubt about it. He has been perfect sparring for Cazares," said Frampton (pictured with Dogboe).
"He can punch hard, he is big and strong and he has come back and sparred me unlike a lot of other guys, who after a day or two at it can sometimes make up their excuses and not return.
"But Isaac is very tough and he has been prepared to stand and trade with me, which has been a big help in this camp. I have no doubt you will be hearing a lot more about Isaac over the coming years – that's why we have put him on the bill."
Dogboe should have dispatched journeyman Elemir Rafael long before Frampton steps into the ring around 10.15pm for his battle with Cazares before 9,000 fans screaming their desire for the Jackal to secure a showdown with WBC World champion Leo Santa Cruz.
In knocking out Kiko Martinez last February, Frampton proved he belongs in the elite of the super-bantamweight division but when the Spaniard refused a return for the IBF World title, it meant Frampton had to go down a much harder route and so he comes to this point tonight where his fists can do all the talking.
"Now I know that if I beat Cazares the world title fight is there, so it's down to me. Santa Cruz wants the fight, that's the difference between him and Kiko Martinez and Scott Quigg," added the 27-year-old.
"Cazares is a very clever boxer, he likes to fight at a slow pace so I'll have to get onto him from the start, get into his face, but I'll be able to adapt if I need to.
"He punches very hard to the body, he likes a lot of length on his shots, he can be hard to hit clean. Although Kiko was tough coming forward he was predictable but this guy is a more clever boxer.
"But I believe I'm the hardest punching super-bantamweight in the world and I could stop anyone in the featherweight or super-featherweight divisions, it's just about landing clean shots.
"Everybody has this view of me being a come forward fighter, probably because I'm short and stocky but I'm always very comfortable on the back foot. I think in this camp in particular I've been improving on my work close up, catching shots and slipping shots and working well up close.
"I've always had good feet, good distance control, but if I'm honest one of the things I lacked was being able to fight up close but now I'm much better at that and you will see that on the night."
The level of expectation has never been higher and Frampton has been a little more on edge this week than before previous fights but that is only to be expected as so much is riding not only on the outcome, but how he performs against two-weight champion Cazares.
"I know the way this business works, you want to win but to be in the big fights and to make big money you have to be exciting. Look at Guillermo Rigondeaux the WBA and WBO champion, he's the most talented boxer in the world – probably just behind Floyd Mayweather – but he's seen as a boring fighter and TV don't want to show his fights.
"Up to now I've been in exciting fights, I've given the public what they want and I want to go out again and give another performance the fans will remember."
Cazares clearly has much greater experience than Frampton and will seek to outfox the Belfast man, laying traps for the Jackal to fall into and it may take the Northern Ireland hero a little time to land his heavy artillery.
But, Frampton's intensity and freakishly hard punching should bring the end around the ninth round, sealing that mouthwatering clash with World champion Santa Cruz – and 20-year-old Dogboe will know that he played his part in the biggest win of the Belfast man's career.