Carl Frampton is under no illusions heading into his 122-pound world title unification clash with Scott Quigg: A repeat of his most recent performance, and his unbeaten record will be a distant memory.
Frampton, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, enjoyed a stellar 2015 in which he made his American debut, was awarded the Member of the British Empire medal and successfully defended his world title. But the year was soured somewhat by Frampton’s showing in his last fight: July’s hard-fought unanimous decision over Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. in El Paso, Texas.
Although Carl Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) kept his flawless record intact, there were enough chinks in the Irishman's performance to prompt Scott Quigg (33-0-2, 23 KOs) to start negotiations for the highly anticipated 122-pound showdown, set for February 27 (Showtime, 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT) at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Against the relatively light-hitting Gonzalez, Frampton was dumped onto the canvas twice in the opening round. “The Jackal” rallied, controlled the second half of the fight and won by a wide points margin. But those early knockdowns got Quigg’s attention: Likely sensing some vulnerability in Frampton, the 27-year-old native of Bury, Lancashire, quickly moved to get a deal done for a match that fight fans in the U.K. have long desired.
“It was the best thing that happened to me that night in Texas,” Frampton says of the knockdowns. “I underestimated a professional boxer, which I should never have done, and I almost paid a heavy price. I was glad with the way I reacted to a problem and I won hands-down in the end, but it was a learning [experience].
“It also brought Quigg out into the open. I’d been chasing him for years when we were boxing at the domestic level, and he never wanted anything to do with me. But I had one wobble, and all of a sudden he was there saying ‘Yes, the fight can be made.’”
Frampton's theory as to why his British counterpart is suddenly eager to fight him? He's convinced that Quigg believes Gonzalez devised a blueprint for how to defeat Frampton, and that Quigg is confident he can finish what Gonzalez couldn’t.
Frampton’s response to such a presumption: “He is in for one hell of a shock February 27. That is not going to be the same boxer in there who fought in Texas. It will be the very best I can bring to the ring.”
“ Scott Quigg has always been there on the horizon, and I don’t think I can call myself No. 1 in the world without having beaten him. ” Carl Frampton
Prior to the Gonzalez bout, Frampton had rarely been tested since making his pro debut in 2009 under the tutelage of former world 126-pound champion Barry McGuigan.
By 2012, Frampton began challenging himself against a better class of opponents, culminating with a September 2012 fight against former Canadian world champion Steve Molitor. Molitor was 34-2 when he got taken out by Frampton inside of six one-sided rounds.
Six months later Frampton halted Kiko Martinez in the ninth, then took apart the Spaniard once again in a 2014 rematch, snatching Martinez’s world title with a near-shutout unanimous decision.
In his first title defense last February, Frampton scored a fifth-round TKO of hopelessly outgunned Chris Avalos. That was followed by the night in El Paso last summer when Frampton’s career almost unraveled against a rank outsider.
“Winning the world title was a truly memorable night and one which I will never forget. But Scott Quigg has always been there on the horizon, and I don’t think I can call myself No. 1 in the world without having beaten him,” Frampton says. “I’m not satisfied with having won a world title. What I want is to be universally recognized as the best in my division, and there is no way I can boast that without facing and beating Quigg.
“Scott and I will never be the best of friends, but I absolutely respect his ability. He has beaten some high-class fighters, so you won’t hear any trash talk from me.”
Not that any trash talk is necessary to hype this fight, seeing that all 21,000 seats at Manchester Arena sold out in minutes. While those ticket buyers seem pretty evenly split over whom they believe will win the battle of unbeaten world champions, Frampton senses a slight lean in Quigg’s direction.
“My display against Gonzalez is the reason so many people are backing Quigg, and to be honest, I can’t really blame them,” he says. “The theory goes that I will also be fighting ‘away,’ as Bury is only a few miles from Manchester. But I guarantee there will be more Frampton fans in the arena than Quigg. It will be like a home match for me.”
To that final point, Frampton promises that any supporters who make the trek from Northern Ireland to Manchester won’t return home disappointed.
“Their champion,” he says, “is going to step up to the plate and prove he is the best in Britain—the best in the world.”
For complete coverage of Frampton vs Quigg, visit our fight page.