Fighters coming towards the end, others on the way up, and others looking for one more chance, it’s an intriguing division.
Featherweight – 126lbs (57.2kg)
What Next For The Jackal?
Heading into 2019, this was not where Carl Frampton [26(15)-2(0)] was meant to be. The Belfast fighter was to have beaten Josh Warrington to pick up the IBF title and be looking towards unifications in the United States. Instead the future of one of Ireland’s Greatest Ever looks uncertain. Whether he remains in the sport or not is a decision for Frampton and his family but, should he elect to make one last charge, there are options.
The unification that Frampton was keen on, it now looks, would have been impossible with the IBF demanding that Warrington defends the red belt against Kid Galahad. This could conceivably clear a path for Frampton to challenge WBO champion Oscar Valdez in the early summer. The Mexican returns from a broken jaw on February 2nd in a soft defence versus Carmine Tommasone and a fan-friendly last stand for Frampton afterwards could appeal.
A rematch with Warrington has been very gently suggested but nothing in comparison to Frampton’s calls for a rubber match with Leo Santa Cruz. The Irishman would, and he would, have to be content with being a heavy b-side for such an encounter but this is the fight Frampton wants most.
Or maybe the Tigers Bay boxer, who turns 32 in February, doesn’t want to go abroad as an underdog, maybe the fourth world title dream is dead. One idea we have heard which we could envision is a ‘Farewell Fight’ at Windsor Park next summer, a chance to recognise Frampton for all that he has achieved. The opponent? Well, our old friend Kiko Martinez holds the European title…
Mick Conlan [10(6)-0] claimed his first belt last month, winning the WBO Inter-Continental rankings title – although he has not been added to the organisation’s Top 15. Conlan’s 2019 already looks to have a number of semi-concrete plans – a St Patrick’s Day headline slot at Madison Square Garden is one as is a pro rematch with Olympic defeater Vladimir Nikitin which has been mooted for the Féile an Phobhail in West Belfast in August.
The Olympic bronze medallist is aiming to be in position for a world title shot by this time next year but there could still be space for a domestic. A potential cross-city crossroads clash with Frampton has been definitively ruled out by both but a fight with Eric Donovan [8(4)-0] has been gently suggested a number of times.
Athy’s Donovan had a nightmare 2018 with numerous injuries. Finally fully fit and training under Ken Egan and Joe Clifford, ‘Lilywhite Lightning’ sees 2019 as make-or-break and is open to immediate big fights, even in the away corner, at feather or super feather – or even super bantam.
A number of feathers are also on the scene and are just in need of a break. Cork’s Colin O’Donovan [1(1)-3(1)-1] twice challenged for the BUI Celtic title in 2018 and could find himself with more away corner opportunities in the new year. Belfast’s Sean Higginson [1(0)-0] has not fought since his debut way back in April 2017 but could be another to benefit by a predicted small hall swell up North. Another in this boat is Newtownards puncher Stevie Quinn [9(2)-2(0)] who still has plenty left to give in the sport. Finally there is Dubliner Shane Roche [0-1(1)] who had a disaster of a debut Down Under but may want to go on in 2019.