Who’s Next! Who will be Carl Frampton’s next opponent?

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The dust from the Chihuahuan Desert has settled on Carl Frampton’s successful, Al Haymon-backed, American debut and attentions are now starting to turn towards who “The Jackal” will face in his next bout. The Belfast super bantamweight has said that his next fight will be this side of the Atlantic, before a stateside return for a massive Madison Square Garden bout on St. Patrick’s Weekend next March.

Before we get ahead of ourselves with dreams of the Big Apple, focus must first be turned to “The Jackal’s” homecoming. Frampton was below his bombastic best against Alejandro González Jr. in El Paso, and he will be hoping for an explosive performance next time out to set himself up as a New York headliner.

Giddy with anticipation, irish-boxing.com takes a look at who the Belfast superstar may face on his return to these shores.

Who it wont be
Before we go into who it could be, first we must eliminate who it wont be. Mexican rivals Abner Mares [29(15)-1(1)-1] and Leo Santa Cruz [30(17)-0-1] will battle it out on August 29th in Los Angeles – with schedules and stature suggesting that neither would travel to Belfast at the end of the year. Indeed it seems more likely that one of the Al Haymon-advised pair will occupy the other side of the ring if Frampton’s New York dream comes to fruition.

Another who wont be coming to these shores anytime soon is the somewhat faded Filipino legend, Nonito Donaire [35(23)-3(1)]. The 32 year old, former four weight world champion, is promoted by Top Rank – who Al Haymon famously does not conduct business with.

WBO and WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux [15(10)-0], also seems an unlikely homecoming opponent for Frampton. After an imperfect performance last time out, Frampton will want a few more fights under his belt before tackling the two-time Olympic gold medal winner. Additionally, the Cuban’s manager, Corkonian Gary Hyde, will not have endeared himself to Cyclone Promotions having harshly criticised them in the aftermath of the Frampton-González Jr. fight.

Mandatory?
A feasible opponent for Frampton could be the mandatory challenger for his belt, Shingo Wake [19(11)-4(0)-2]. The 28 year old Japanese southpaw was ringside last weekend to watch Frampton dispatch González Jr. and has also been spending some time training in Freddie Roach’s famous Wild Card Gym.

Currently on a nine fight win-streak, Wake holds continental honours (The OPBF title), and attained the mandatory position last month with a points victory over Thailand’s Mike Tawatchai. At 5’8″, with an awkward, long style, the Tokyo-based fighter would certainly be a tough opponent for Frampton.

Super Fight?
Of course, the fight we all want to see is with Bury’s Scott Quigg [31(23)-0-2]. Frampton and the Englishman have been eyeballing each other for the best part of five years and it seemed like they would finally trade leather this summer before negotiations broke down over money.

Former British champion Quigg, had a career-best victory at the weekend, stopping former IBF world champion and Frampton foe, Kiko Martínez, inside two rounds – and, with ‘The Jackal’ being knocked down twice by an unheralded opponent, the clamour for Frampton-Quigg has only gotten more intense.

The pair both seem to desperately want to fight – however relations between Cyclone Promotions and Matchroom, who promote Quigg, are frosty. Encouragingly though, Al Haymon enjoys a better relationship with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom and the American boxing behemoth could help broker a deal.

Whether the 9,000 capacity Odyssey Arena is big enough for such a fight is another story. An alternative is London’s 20,000 seater O2 Arena, and Matchroom are currently planning a show there for December 12th.

Aside from location, another issue will be television, with Frampton wanting to stay on terrestrial television, whereas Quigg and Matchroom see the bout as a pay-per-view event.

However, purse split is the major stumbling block. Frampton, with his large fan base and status at title holder, wants a 60:40 split (which is relatively low for a voluntary defence). 26 year old Quigg wants a more even split due to him belonging to a larger promotional outfit, as well as currently holding the lightly regarded WBA ‘regular’ world title –  however the IBF, correctly, do not recognise this belt and, therefore, will not sanction a ‘unification’ fight.

A lot of tortuous negotiation is required before this long-hyped fight can become a reality.

Featherweight?

After the tough fight with González Jr. at the weekend, Frampton admitted that he is struggling to make the 122lb super bantamweight limit, and that a move 4lbs north to featherweight is a possibility. If Frampton can not boil himself down to super bantamweight one more time, then a Belfast debut at featherweight will be in order.

If he does move up in weight, Frampton needs a recognisable opponent. “The Jackal” was given some leeway for choosing González Jr. for his American debut opponent, in order to introduce himself to the U.S. audience – however two unknown opponents in a row would lead to much criticism.

Looking at the featherweight division, there are a few veteran names that stand out as men who would have no problem travelling to take on Frampton – hoping for one last shot at the big time.

The Haymon-advised Mexican, Jhonny González [57(48)-9(5)] is a former two-weight world champion and a veteran of sixteen world title fights. Now 33, González lost his WBC featherweight title to Gary Russell Jr. earlier in the year. A win against Frampton could shoot him back into contention.

39 year old Armenian, Vic Darchinyan [40(29)-8(4)-1] is another veteran with links to Haymon. Like González, Darchinyan is a former two-weight world champ and has been involved in eighteen world title fights. The formerly pound-for-pound rated southpaw is a recognisable, if past prime, opponent. “The Raging Bull” may fancy one last assault on titles having been unsuccessful in his challenge for Jesús Cuellar’s WBC featherweight belt last month.

Finally there is “El Diamente”, Cristian Mijares [52(25)-8(1)-2]. Last year, the 33 year old Mexican southpaw, was outpointed over twelve rounds when he challenged for Leo Santa Cruz’s WBC super bantamweight belt. A bout with the former IBF super flyweight champion would be a great opportunity for Frampton to beat the benchmark set by Santa Cruz.

Regardless of whoever is standing across the ring from Frampton at the end of the year, it promises to be another special, noisy, event.

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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