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Frampton v Santa Cruz: It could be Showtime in Belfast as Espinoza admits he'd love Carl super fight

By David Kelly

American television powerbroker Stephen Espinoza believes Carl Frampton is on the cusp of a series of super fights that will propel him to an even higher level of star status.

Should Frampton overcome Leo Santa Cruz in their rematch in the early hours of Sunday morning at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, he will seek a clash with IBF champion Lee Selby and Showtime Sports boss Espinoza, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, says his company are more than willing to come to Belfast and financially back such a fight.

The last time Showtime came to Belfast was in the mid-1990s when Ray Close challenged Chris Eubank for the WBO super-middleweight title at the King's Hall but a clash between Frampton and Selby is more than likely to end up at Windsor Park, which is something that excites Espinoza whose company are beaming this weekend's clash coast-to-coast across America.

"We'd love nothing more than to come to Belfast for a Carl fight - for us the draw is the atmosphere and we have seen how passionate the Irish fans are. The interesting thing for Carl is that at featherweight he has the opportunity to become a true star of the sport," said Espinoza.

"Win or lose this weekend, he can have the fight with Selby and then there's Gary Russell jnr and Abner Mares and these are all guys who have no reluctance in taking on tough fights. Sometimes you have a star of the division but then there's a big gap between him and the rest but Carl has the opportunity for many exciting fights."

Espinoza has been struck by not only how the American fight fans have taken to Frampton on the back of his victory over Santa Cruz in Brooklyn last summer but also the Hispanic respect that the Jackal now enjoys.

"Carl has gained a lot of respect with the Mexican fans. The Irish and American fans are very similar, their heroes are typically blue collar, working class guys who are humble and honest, not particularly flamboyant and I can sense they respect Carl and how he fights and conducts himself," he said.

"And really that's what makes the rivalry between Carl and Leo so special - it's a hard-fought rivalry but it has been built without animosity, the kind of animosity that you would have seen when the great Marco Antonio Barrera was fighting Erik Morales.

"Both fighters are committed to entertaining the fans, they leave it all in the ring and it doesn't get personal.

"It's a bit disconcerting for Carl's manager Barry McGuigan at times when he sees Carl go toe-to-toe but for the fans and television it makes for a very exciting fight and I think we're going to get a similar fight to the one we saw in New York last summer."

That epic encounter in the Barclays Centre when Frampton walked away with the WBA World featherweight belt certainly made huge waves across the American boxing fraternity and Espinoza admits that the Jackal's profile has risen even quicker than he expected, considering he is preparing for only his third bout Stateside - the first in 2015 when he climbed off the floor to defeat the late Alejandro Gonzalez jnr.

"The first fight garnered a tremendous amount of attention and the Barclays Centre was electric," said Espinoza.

"There was a great buzz for weeks after the fight because of the quality of the action and we were extremely pleased that the rematch could be made so quickly and relatively effortlessly.

"That's a tribute to both Carl and Leo, that they would both jump straight back into such a fight.

"Carl was steadily building a name for himself in the States but the pace has just accelerated tremendously, quicker than I think most would have thought, and now he's headlining at the MGM Grand and it doesn't get any bigger than that."

Belfast Telegraph

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