Carl Frampton’s Belfast homecoming fight dealt big blow by the IBF

Carl Frampton [23(14)-1(0)] is seeing his list of opponents for his next fight rapidly diminish.

The two-weight world champion is set for a Belfast homecoming at Windsor Park this Summer, but is in danger of not having a big-name opponent for the fight.

The initial wish was for a decisive third fight with WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz [33(18)-1(0)-1], however the Mexican-American would go back on his promise of coming to Belfast.

Santa Cruz had pledged that he would come to Belfast for a third fight in the build up to the pair’s rematch in Las Vegas, however this would go by the wayside afterwards with the returned champ citing his father and trainer José’s fear of dubious hometown judging in favour of Frampton.

With an agreement unable to be reached with Frampton, the WBA then ordered Santa Cruz to defend his belt against another big name in Abner Mares [30(15)-2(1)-1].

WBC champion Gary Russell Jr [27(16)-1(0)], who is believed to be the potential ‘curve ball’ opponent described by Frampton, this week had a title fight confirmed with Oscar Escandon in Maryland on May 20th. This seemingly also takes him out of the running to be Frampton’s next foe.

Now, today, the favoured Santa Cruz replacement, IBF champion Lee Selby [24(9)-1(0)], has also been most likely ruled out of a Summer bout with ‘The Jackal.’

The Welshman has regularly spoken of his willingness to come to Belfast to face Frampton, and the pair’s management teams share a very strong working relationship.

Talk this week seemed to suggest that Selby-Frampton was in the works, but the IBF have confirmed that the Barry boxer will defend his red belt next against Argentinian Jonathan Victor Barros [41(22)-4(1)-2].

Selby was due to defend against Barros on the same card as Frampton-Santa Cruz II in January, but agonisingly saw the fight shelved at the last minute with the Nevada State Athletic Commission refusing to sanction the South American.

Confusion surrounded the health of Barros, but he has been cleared to box and the IBF have confirmed to BBC Wales that the fight will go to purse bids on Thursday April 13th, and must take place within 90 days after this.

Considering that Frampton no longer offers a unification fight, Barros being mandatory challenger, and the IBF having a reputation for a stringent enforcement of the rules, it is now extremely unlikely that Selby will be coming to Belfast this Summer.

It is unfortunate news for Frampton and his fans who have been on the road for over two years, with his last Belfast bout coming in February 2014.

An opponent will be sourced, but the list of potential big, exciting fights is dwindling.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie