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Accolades bring added pressure for Frampton but he expects to deliver on Vegas debut

The Belfast boxer defends his WBA featherweight title this weekend in a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz.

Carl Frampton 24/1//2017 Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

THE BIGGEST FIGHT of his career awaits Carl Frampton on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

He faces a showdown with Leo Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand, a long-awaited rematch after the Belfast boxer defeated the Mexican — who was unbeaten at the time — to win the WBA featherweight title last July.

A sore Santa Cruz seeks redemption and the featherweight belt, but Frampton will be hoping he can keep his hands firmly on the belt and continue his undefeated run unscathed.

Carl Frampton 24/1//2017 Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

“If you look through his career, he’s fought the same way the whole time,” a confident Frampton told Sky Sports in Las Vegas. “He tries to overwhelm his opponents. He tries to bully them. I’ve been the only one that’s been able to hit him back, push him back and not allow that to happen.

“That’s the difference. He just can’t bully me. I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do. I’ve made a few adjustments in training and if I carry them out on the night, I’ll win this fight more convincingly.”

Carl Frampton 24/1//2017 Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Frampton has already fought on US soil. In addition to his majority-decision defeat of Santa Cruz in Brooklyn last year, the Tiger’s Bay native saw off Alejandro Gonzalez in Texas in July 2015.

However, this week represents Frampton’s first outing in what has generally been regarded as the fight capital of the world, with the 29-year-old featuring on posters and billboards along the Vegas strip.

“I don’t know if it makes me strange or what but I just take it in my stride,” Frampton said. “I don’t get too carried away with it. I think probably when the time comes to call it a day and I look back at my career, I’ll remember it fondly obviously. At the minute, the lads seem more interested in it than I am. I’m just looking forward to the fight.”

Carl Frampton 24/1//2017 Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

After a memorable 2016 during which he also got the better of Scott Quigg, Frampton will be hoping for more of the same this year. His achievements were acknowledged via Fighter of the Year awards from the likes of Ring Magazine and ESPN, which he admits have brought added pressure.

“Obviously there’s a lot of people coming here,” said the popular champion. “A lot of people are expecting me to do well. I’ve obviously won a few awards as well this year which adds a bit more pressure too, so I don’t know. I just take it in my stride, again.

“I feel like when the pressure’s on I put in my best performances, from the amateurs right through to professional. I think it’s going to be more of the same. There’s a little bit more pressure on this time than there was with the first fight but I’m expecting to do a proper job on this guy.”

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Emma Duffy

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