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There's only two Carl Framptons? Jackal has killer instinct to be Ireland's greatest boxer

Tonight’s WBA featherweight title rematch is not to be missed.
Jan 28th 2017, 11:21 AM 7,685 14

Santa Cruz Frampton Boxing Frampton: undefeated. Source: John Locher

- Joe Callaghan reports from Las Vegas

IT’S ALMOST A decade since Las Vegas ears were singed like this on a big-time boxing week. Not since Ricky Hatton decamped here five times in a frenetic two-year spell has the Strip been serenaded to the same tune.

On Friday afternoon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena a swell of upwards of 4,000 green and white-clad souls bellowed from deep that “there’s only one Carl Frampton”.

It lent itself to a raucous atmosphere as the champion and his familiar challenger, Leo Santa Cruz, stepped onto the scales ahead of their mouth-watering WBA featherweight title rematch here on Saturday night (Sky Sports 1; expected ringwalk after 4am Irish time).

Whatever about its musical merits, there is one glaring problem with the chant however. There is not only one Carl Frampton; there are two. And as another defining night in the Belfast fighter’s life rapidly approaches, the Jackal’s ready to flick the switch.

“The character in the ring is different to the man outside it,” said the predator from Tiger’s Bay.

“When you smell blood or see blood, you go after it. That’s not any different to any other guys doing this sport or any other man. It’s just human nature.”

Carl Frampton signs autographs for fans An estimated 5,000 fans have travelled to cheer on the champion. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Frampton is the consummate sporting champion: approachable, genuine, impossible not to like. While our island has worked itself into a frenzy in recent times over another upwardly mobile fighting featherweight, Frampton’s exploits — unifying one division before moving up and claiming a second world title and unanimous fighter of the year honours — have inexplicably been underplayed south of the border.

The make-up of the crowds here in Sin City suggest that when it comes to the diehards, the 29-year-old’s fan base is still largely summoned from Northern Ireland. Those who have missed what is an altogether apolitical movement really have missed out. But there’s still time to get on board. In fact there may be no better time.

Frampton is promising to make good tonight on the claims of his trainer Shane McGuigan’s after the first fight that, should he meet Santa Cruz again, his charge could “beat him better”. On Thursday, McGuigan outlined to The42 just how clear Frampton’s power surge has been during their intense month-long pre-fight camp here in Nevada.

For the first time in a long time, the Jackal has knocked out sparring partners… plural. The extra four pounds of featherweight are clearly suiting Frampton.

“I feel like I have the power to knock him out,” he said. “And that’s not me criticising Leo or criticising his chin. I just believe if I hit anyone in these weight divisions on the chin, clean, then they can go out.

“I know everything that he’s going to do. If he does throw more, it just gives me the chance to nail him, again. If he wants a war, I am ready.”

Barry McGuigan and Carl Frampton McGuigan: Of course there's unfinished business. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Once the fight settles, Frampton likely will get another war. Santa Cruz, already a lethally dangerous opponent, is driven by a hunger for swift retribution.

“Revenge is the only thing on my mind,” he said after both fighters had tipped the scales at an identical 125lbs. He’s also driven on by his father and trainer Jose Sr, now in remission having battled a crippling cancer in the lead-up to their first clash.

He’ll surely adopt a more patient approach early on, not rushing into Frampton’s crushing hands on the counter. The Jackal’s greatest gifts — his anticipation, his magical feet, his boxing brain — will be called upon early and often again.

He has plenty of his own personal motivations too. The ultimate dream of a high summer megafight at Windsor Park is just over the hill, likely locked in with victory here. He’s also fighting for his mentor.

After a week of studiously avoiding focus on the the topic of his own Las Vegas debut against another Cruz — one that ended in dehydrated disaster — Barry McGuigan’s guard slipped and he admitted to the Los Angeles Times on Friday that his 1986 defeat to Steve Cruz is a factor in proceedings three decades on.

“Of course there’s unfinished business,” said the Clones Cyclone.

“Carl’s got to win this fight. I get a bit tense near the fights because success puts pressure on you — unbelievable pressure. I’m glad it’s him fighting, not me, because he loves pressure.”

The hour has almost arrived. One Carl Frampton is about to give way to another. It shouldn’t be missed.

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Joe Callaghan

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