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King Carl puts fans first with a thriller


By David Kelly

When Carl Frampton eventually hangs up his gloves and tucks into as much pavlova as he desires, there will be a unique void that no fighter will fill.

Yes, we will have fighting men who will go on to become World champions and those who garner good support, but in the light of his latest fight with exciting 23-year-old Mexican Andres Gutierrez, the point has been hammered home just how much he identifies with his legion of followers.

The harsh reality is that the 30-year-old Belfast man has become too big for Northern Ireland when it comes to maximizing his earning potential. More lucrative bouts could have been had across in the States, and he would not have had to wait from January until July 29, but he has chosen to give something back to the Jackal Army. One last atmospheric night in the SSE Arena, one final evening for the king's lieutenants to salute their hero in a battle with a Mexican who will test his resolve to climb back to the top of the game once more.

The loss to WBA World champion Leo Santa Cruz earlier this year in Las Vegas still stings, and he wanted his revenge, but the Mexican backtracked on his claims that he would come to Belfast for their third clash, and then a clash with IBF titleholder Lee Selby crumbled when he had to face a mandatory defence.

"I wasn't going to mug the fans, this had to be a hard fight for me and this is what it is. If I'm not at my best I could lose," said Frampton, who admits he is taking a pay-cut to box at home.

"I had to come home for this fight. I've been away for two-and-a-half years, my fans have had to travel. I feel that with this fight I'm repaying them for their support which has been amazing.

"I understand why Santa Cruz didn't come to Belfast to fight. He had just won the title, the money he was being paid in the States it needed to be on a pay-per-view show and there wasn't a pay-per-view date available.

"Going back to the SSE Arena it will be special, just to hear that atmosphere again - to be in there when the fans are nearly taking the roof off.

"I'm disappointed that the fight is not being held at Windsor Park because I know that a lot of fans will miss out on tickets and I apologise for that, but we are working on setting up a fan zone with a big screen in Belfast. My dream is still to fight at Windsor Park and I want that to happen before my career is over."

Absence they say makes the heart grow fonder, and that certainly seems to be the case for Frampton as he now cranks up training for his date with Gutierrez, whose only loss was a highly controversial rip-roaring duel with another world contender, Cristian Mijares.

"I really missed the whole buzz around the city on fight week, there's just something special about Belfast - it's a proper fight city. For me it's the best fight city in the world. This place has always brought out the best in me and it will do again."

The man who will be standing in the way of another memorable evening insists he will stretch Frampton to the limit.

Gutierrez, who's never in a dull fight, revealed that Frampton's big rival and reigning WBA feathrweigh Santa Cruz turned down the chance to face him on more than one occasion.

"I have been looking for Santa Cruz for a long time but he never agreed to the fight. My team made him offers when he was the super-bantamweight champion and also when featherweight champion but they said no," said Gutierrez.

"It seems nobody wants to fight me but Carl Frampton decided to fight me and I'm very excited about the fight because it's going to be a war, that's what I expect - a war. If I beat Frampton then I will hopefully get a World title shot. I believe I will beat Frampton," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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