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Dublin: 8°C Monday 8 March 2021

'Canelo is going to be ringside in Belfast, but he’ll be leaving disappointed'

Old friends Carl Frampton, Jamie Conlan and Paddy Barnes star on a bumper world title bill in their home city this Saturday.

CARL FRAMPTON FEELS imbued by the recent radical overhaul of his boxing career, and is excited to return to the ring in his home city for the first time in almost three years this weekend.

‘The Jackal’, who recently teamed up with Frank Warren and BT Sport as well as a new trainer in Jamie Moore and new advisers in Matthew Macklin’s MTK, faces former sparring partner Horacio Garcia in Belfast’s SSE Arena on Saturday.

Garcia [33-3-1, 24KOs] has never been stopped, and will be cheered on by his compatriot Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at ringside, but Frampton is eyeing an emphatic victory as he takes the first steps back toward the pinnacle of his craft.

“I can’t wait to get going,” said the former two-weight world champion. “It’s two-and-a-half years since I last fought in Belfast and I’ve a good record here – a 100 per cent stoppage rate in the Odyssey so I’m hoping to continue that.

“I feel good. It’s the best I’ve ever felt so close to a fight if I’m being honest. I’m relaxed but excited as well. People are noticing a wee spring in my step so I’m happy and looking forward to the fight.”

Canelo is going to be ringside and it’s an honour to have him here with him making the trip the whole way to Belfast. Obviously he’ll be here supporting Horacio Garcia, but he’ll be leaving disappointed when I get the win. But it’s great to have him here.

Carl Frampton and Horacio Garcia Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

In the co-main event, Frampton’s friend and fellow Belfast man Jamie Conlan challenges Pinoy ‘Pretty Boy’ Jerwin Ancajas for his IBF World super-flyweight title in a maiden tilt at world honours for the Falls Road brawler.

Conlan, 31, is undefeated in his 19 professional contests, but faces by a considerable margin the toughest test of his career versus the Manny Pacquiao-promoted Filipino in front of what promises to be a raucous home crowd.

“It’s exciting because I’m eager to see how I do and how I perform,” Conlan said.

“I’ve had a great training camp and everything is done. I’ve never looked as good in camp.

I’d be the first to tell you that the majority of the time you’d usually have as many bad days as good days, but for this one it’s all be fantastic and I’ve had a completely different attitude.

“I feel in a great place mentally as well as physically, so I’m excited – very excited,” added Conlan, who insisted that he had no emotion when coming head to head with his southpaw foe at Thursday’s final pre-fight press conference.

“It’s always just a blank face to me. I like to get a look at the opponent to compare height and that type of thing, but it’s all done and I’ve been visualising fighting him for the past eight weeks. I’m fully prepared.”

Jamie Conlan and Jerwin Ancajas Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Conlan and Frampton’s close pal Paddy Barnes, a three-time Irish Olympian, features on a stacked undercard where he’ll fight Nicaraguan Eliecer Quezada [21-6-3, 8KOs] for the WBO intercontinental title in what will be just his own fifth fight as a professional.

Victory will catapult Barnes up the world rankings, but he’s taking nothing for granted having learned of his game opponent – twice a conqueror of Yader Cardoza, who took Jamie Conlan to the brink in his last outing – at short notice ahead of Saturday.

“I’ve had a look at him [Quezada] and he’s very, very good,” said the former European amateur champion. “My original opponent fell through, so that’s changed everything. I was training for a small come-forward fighter and now I’m fighting a taller opponent, so that’s changed a lot.”

But in the amateurs you’re fighting different styles every day at major tournaments so I’m used to it. I haven’t thought too much about it, I don’t really mind, I’m just looking forward to the fight. I can’t wait, I’m very excited and I’m flying fit, so it should be a good night.

Barnes is back in action just a few weeks after recording his fourth pro win in Edinburgh when he claimed a six-round points victory over Peruvian Juan Hinostroza.

“That helped me shake off the ring rust coming into this fight,” explained Barnes. “That’ll stand to me. It’s still a bit of a struggle to get the weight down, but I’ve been on a strict diet and I feel sharp and strong and fit.”

Jamie Conlan and Carl Frampton Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Undefeated prospect Jono Carroll also features on the card despite his much-anticipated rematch with fellow Dub Declan Geraghty falling through due to an injury to the latter.

The 25-year-old will take on Mexico’s Humberto de Santiago for the IBF intercontinental title and a place in the top 15 of the organisation’s world rankings.

Frampton Reborn will be broadcast live on BT Sport and BoxNation.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

Jamie Conlan: ‘I was ranked fifth in the world and working on a building site. This world title fight is everything’

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