By Tim Martin
Irish boxing has been given a huge shot in the arm with the news that Carl Frampton will showcase his first IBF Super Bantamweight world title defence on ITV.
Airing live on February 28, the fight with mandatory challenger Chris Avalos means a return to free to air world championship boxing in the UK and Ireland for the first time since Carl Froch won the WBC super-middleweight title in 2008. The announcement ends Cyclone’s previous three fight television deal with Box Nation.
The event, scheduled to be broadcast from Belfast’s Odyssey Arena, sees Frampton return to the location after September’s outdoor contest with former champion Kiko Martinez at the Titanic Slipway. Looking forward to the new venture, ‘The Jackal’ was typically upbeat in front of a packed media audience at London’s Heron Tower.
“It’s a wonderful platform to show my talent. I can’t wait to get going and put on a great show.” A full undercard will begin proceedings on ITV4 with super flyweight Jamie Conlan expected to entertain television audiences in his WBO Intercontential title bout with number two ranked Warlito Parrenas.
Frampton then takes centre stage before 11pm as he seeks to extend his unbeaten record to 20 wins.
While head of ITV Sport Niall Sloane wouldn’t be drawn on viewing figures estimates, interest in the fight could see millions tuning in. He spoke of his emotion at securing the deal. “We are delighted to be given this opportunity. This works for us. Barry is a very persuasive man and Carl is an exciting boxer. It is a great time to be presenting his talent and a wonderful time to be back.”
Negotiations between Cyclone and ITV began in the New Year with little difficulty. “It was all relatively easy. I had a phone call with Niall (Sloane) and it was all done fairly seamlessly, said McGuigan.
Such a partnership is likely to create further anticipation of a future matchup between Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz but McGuigan insists that his immediate target is to deliver a world class product for television audiences.
“I want to have a long term relationship with ITV. We will have to demonstrate that it is worthwhile for them. We are prepared for that and I sincerely hope that we have a future. It opens the door to a whole host of opportunities.”
Before Frampton, ITV hosted Irish super-middleweight champion Steve Collins as well as Prince Naseem Hamed, Nigel Benn and most recently Amir Khan.
Californian Avalos has already predicted a knockout loss for Frampton and McGuigan is in no doubt that his premier attraction will be tested considerably. “It’s a tough fight. This guy will forensically examine Carl’s capabilities, both his chin and his heart.”