At 33 and with two defeats in his rearview mirror, it’s almost getting to that ‘all or nothing’ point in Carl Frampton’s career.
He is itching to get back in the ring – the withdrawal of Vahram Vardanyan from their August date hasn’t helped on that front, but more pertinently he will be looking for a huge fight in 2021 as he approaches the autumn of his career.
The Jackal would love nothing more than to fill out Windsor Park again and ideally fight for a world title, and to that end there are a couple of potential opponents in his eyeline.
So here’s five pugilists who could step into the ring with the Irishman in 2021.
There were reports emanating that Frampton had secured a deal to fight the WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring at Windsor Park this autumn. However, that is dependent on a number of factors so there is still a lot of uncertainty over whether it will go ahead.
It’s a good fight for Frampton too. Herring doesn’t have great punch power – his last four wins have all gone to the cards, and the 34-year-old does have two defeats on his CV.
A latecomer to elite boxing, Herring is one of the more vulnerable world champions in boxing, and Frampton’s greater technical skills would allow the Irishman to swarm all over his opponent.
The Olympic silver medallist has compiled a strong 14-0 record in the pro game, and he has quickly climbed up the rankings to become the number one challenger to Herring in the WBO category. Therefore, Frampton might have to find a way past the 23-year-old in order to get the world title shot he so craves.
Stevenson models himself on Andre Ward, the ultimate scientific fighter, and with that Olympic pedigree he is clearly going to be an enormous handful for the Jackal. But he is lacking in big fight experience, and most of the scalps on his record have been cherry-picked for him – the Irishman would represent a huge step up in class.
Leo Santa Cruz
Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold.
It was back in January 2017 when Santa Cruz wrestled Frampton’s WBA title away from him, and while there’s been a lot of water passed under the bridge the desire for a trilogy fight surely holds some appeal – the Irishman won their first encounter.
The Mexican is still the WBA champion, and if he can overcome Gervonta Davis in their scheduled date he would be an attractive opponent for Frampton.
However, that could be the rub. Davis is a really skilful operator, and in the latest boxing betting odds he is a warm 2/7 favourite. Hopes of Frampton vs Santa Cruz III hinge on the 31-year-old overcoming the odds.
As far as career progression is concerned, a scrap with Jono Carroll doesn’t make a huge amount of sense for Frampton. However, it’s a fight that would put bums on seats – if allowed – in 2021, with the Aviva Stadium or Windsor Park both likely to sell very nicely for an all-Irish encounter.
Carroll was really impressive in defeat of Frampton’s old nemesis Scott Quigg, and he already has one eye on a huge contest on home soil. “I’d love the Carl Frampton fight. I think the atmosphere would be electric, it would just be amazing,” he said.
“We are both big draws and we are both big names in Ireland at the minute. It would sell out the SSE or Windsor Park, so it makes business sense as well.”
When Frampton and Warrington collided at Manchester Arena back in 2018, it was a genuine fight of the year contender. The Englishman got the nod on that occasion, but you can bet your bottom dollar that would have been eating away at the Jackal ever since.
A rematch is a possibility, although Warrington has said he will only entertain the idea ‘as long as he’s got a world title’, and that would mean the Irishman stepping back down to the featherweight mark.
It gets harder and harder to make the weight as you get older, and so perhaps Frampton is better served staying at the ‘super’ level. He will be looking to reel in Herring, you would think.