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Frampton can take his record to an unbeaten 21-0 with a win on Saturday night.
Frampton can take his record to an unbeaten 21-0 with a win on Saturday night.
Image: Presseye/Jorge Salgado/INPHO

Texas hold 'em: Carl Frampton ready for his first hand in high-stakes US game

Frampton hot favourite to defend his world super-bantamweight title in El Paso, Texas this evening.
Jul 18th 2015, 8:00 AM 12,205 7

WHILE 2 MAY heralded the end of boxing’s most notorious cold war inside the ring, it was the coming together of two prominent power brokers outside it which ultimately made the fight a reality. Through an unprecedented series of cloak and dagger concessions, promotional powerhouses Bob Arum and Al Haymon found the middle ground required to stage the historic Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao match-up.

What soon became apparent, however, was that those concessions amounted rather more to a ceasefire than a truce. Indeed, the feud resumed in earnest on 1 July when Arum filed a 50-page lawsuit against Haymon, requesting $100 million in damages and an injunction to prevent his adversary from staging his Premier Boxing Champions series.

This followed hot on the heels of a separate yet similar lawsuit filed by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Inc a month earlier. Each case was submitted on the pretence that Haymon has wantonly violated the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, a federal treaty which aims to protect fighters by making it illegal for the same individual to occupy the dual-role of manager and promoter.

Soundings from the fighters themselves, however, suggest they’re not exactly damsels in distress. After all, Haymon’s exclusive rights agreements with American network operators CBS and NBC, as well as cable outlets Spike & ESPN, have afforded his clients lucrative mainstream exposure.

While everyone from Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia to rising stars like Errol Spence and Artur Beterbiev continue to flourish as a result, Mayweather remains very much the prince of the paddock. The sport’s longstanding pay-per-view star looks set to make his free-to-air television debut in September, an event that will likely mark the true coming-out party for the PBC franchise.

Several of Haymon’s established attractions are scheduled to feature during the nine intervening weeks, but it’s a greener member of the stable that will be front and centre on CBS this Saturday. Indeed, just seven days on from Conor McGregor’s defining night in Sin City, one of Ireland’s not-so-interim world champions is hoping to make a stateside splash of his own.

“I am very happy to have been given this opportunity by Al Haymon,” said super-bantamweight titlist Carl Frampton ahead of his first US appearance.

“He has a formidable reputation in boxing and has been the catalyst to securing the biggest fights in recent years. This is an exciting stage of my career after winning my world title, and my team and I know that this relationship will help take my career to the next level.”

Carl Frampton and Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. Gonzalez, right, is a 14/1 outsider to cause a shock. Source: Presseye/Jorge Salgado/INPHO

Frampton’s de-facto promoter, Barry McGuigan, was equally enamoured by the link-up.

“We are delighted to add Al to the team. He works with many world class fighters in the super-bantam and featherweight divisions, so there will be plenty of attractive opportunities for Carl in the coming years.

“He is moving towards the peak of his career and we believe this is the perfect time to strike up the partnership.”

Indeed, in addition to a long-mooted domestic showdown with Scott Quigg, potential bouts against Gary Russell Jr, Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares now sit firmly on the horizon.

Prior to pursuing the ocean of possibilities which await him on both sides of the Atlantic, however, Frampton must first dip his toe into uncharted waters on Saturday night. While El Paso native Alejandro Gonzalez presents a comparatively straightforward challenge for the Belfast man, simply fighting away from home will be a change of pace in and of itself. After all, Frampton is more accustomed to thriving off partisan home support than attempting to abate that of an opponent.

Being a well-travelled amateur in his own right, though, the 28-year-old doesn’t seem overly fazed by the prospect of taking his talents to Texas.

“I’ve boxed all over the world; I’ve been in very hostile environments so I’ll be ready for it. I boxed in Turkey at a top amateur event and beat three local fighters, one after the other.

“I think I’ll feed off the atmosphere. Of course I’m expecting a few boos, but when I silence the crowd they’ll know I’ve got the better of their man.”

Carl Frampton Frampton meets the media in El Paso. Source: Presseye/Jorge Salgado/INPHO

Although one may be inclined to dismiss this weekend’s assignment as little more than a prelude to a grander narrative, Saturday’s opponent emits the air of somebody who hasn’t read that particular script. Gonzalez, himself the son of a former world featherweight champion, believes he boasts the pedigree and temperament to upset the odds.

“I’m not going to be afraid of anyone” said the 22-year-old.

“Even though this will be the biggest fight of my career, I won’t be nervous. Ever since my (only) loss to Juan Alberto Rosas last year, I gained a lot of experience. I think I am ready for the test. I have a big chance, a great opportunity, and I am going to take advantage of it.”

The fact that the challenger will step through the ropes at the Don Haskins Centre in Texas as a 14/1 underdog suggests he is speaking rather more in hope than expectation.

And although there is no such thing as a sure thing in the fight game, tales of his mentor’s ill-fated American debut should be enough to ward off any semblance of complacency from the champion. The Clones Cyclone ground to a halt at the hands of a Latino underdog in 1986, and while there are parallels aplenty between McGuigan’s résumé and that of his protégé, both men will be keen to ensure that Saturday night’s title defence doesn’t become one of them.

Carl Frampton v Alejandro Gonzalez Jr will be live on UTV Ireland tonight from 9.45pm

‘Carl Frampton is one of the best Irish fighters that there’s ever been’

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Ronan Mullen

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