Who’s Next? Looking at Carl Frampton’s options following Santa Cruz defeat

Carl Frampton is down, but he is not out.

‘The Jackal’ lost his WBA featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas at the weekend, but resolved to come back stronger.

The Belfast man will now take some time to recover and lick his wounds, but can be expected to return to the ring during the Summer, and will want to be straight back in to a big fight – preferably in his hometown.

Who his opponent will be is currently unknown and there is bound to be plenty of speculation over the next few weeks

Two of the main factors which will decide the details of Frampton’s next fight are
– How adamant is he that the fight must take place in Belfast?
– How rigidly will he stick to his continued assertion that it is ‘big fights only’ until the end of his career?

With that in mind, Irish-Boxing.com take a look at who Frampton’s next opponent could be, analysing the likelihood of all the main contenders.

Leo Santa Cruz III – [33(18)-1(0)-1]
The fight both Frampton and Santa Cruz want the most. ‘El Terremoto’ had previously promised a third fight with Frampton in Belfast – however not many boxing fans are holding out too much hope of this becoming a reality. A fight in Belfast is not unimaginable from a promotional point of view – indeed should Premier Boxing Champions want a big fight for an afternoon slot on U.S. network television, hosting the trilogy fight in front of a packed out stadium in Belfast would fit the bill. That said, America looks, far and away, the most likely venue. Frampton and his team would perhaps be too stubborn to head to Santa Cruz’s home town of Los Angeles, so it may be Las Vegas again.

Lee Selby – [23(8)-1(0)]
Should Santa Cruz in Windsor Park be a no-go, IBF champion Lee Selby is one who could step into the breach. The ideal scenario was for Frampton and Selby to defeat Santa Cruz and Jonathan Victor Barros respectively on Saturday night then unify in the Summer. However the Belfast man would lose his belt and Selby would see his fight scratched off the card. Both camps share a good working relationship, however it would seem likely that Welshman Selby, who has not fought since last April, would like a tune-up fight before jumping in with Frampton.

Abner Mares – [30(15)-2(1)-1]
In many ways a perfect fight for Frampton. The Mexican-American is a well-known three-weight world champion who brings an exciting style to the table and would be willing to travel to Belfast. Mares himself however may prefer a local rematch with new champion Santa Cruz. Another sticking point could be the fact that Mares holds the lightly-regarded and largely-derided WBA ‘regular’ belt, and Frampton and his team may perhaps have too much pride to fight for the same title which they ridiculed former rival Scott Quigg for holding.

Gary Russell Jr – [27(16)-1(0)]
The WBC champion is also advised by Al Haymon, and defends his green belt against Oscar Escandon next month. The lightning-fast American has stated his openness to the bout in the past – although that was in regard to unifying. Team Frampton have noted that he would be unlikely to come to Belfast as well, reducing the likelihood of a bout. That said, if Santa Cruz and Selby are off the table, Frampton could be tempted by a Russell fight and an immediate return to world title contests.

Cristian Mijares – [55(26)-8(1)-2]
The 35 year old former super flyweight champion is still knocking about – indeed he holds the WBC silver trinket and is ranked #3 with the organisation. ‘El Diamente,’ would provide Frampton with a recognisable name and a ranking at the very least – although should not offer too much resistance at this stage of his career and at this weight.

Simpiwe Vetyeka – [29(17)-3(0)]
The 36 year old South African is WBA-ranked and a former featherweight world champion. With Cork man Gary Hyde guiding his career, it is a fight that is easily made which also ticks plenty of boxes.

Weaker Opponents
Frampton, of course, could take a step down in level for his next contest and fight at the Odyssey against a ranked opponent, unknown to the vast majority of fans, perhaps for an International/Inter-Continental belt. While nobody (including Frampton) would want to see this option being exercised, it may perhaps happen due to an inability to secure a fight with any of the names above.

Unlikely Fights
There are a number of other big names in the featherweight division, however, for one reason or another, these all look highly unlikely. WBO champ Óscar Valdez [21(19)-0] is one of these. The Mexican is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank, and this alone makes the fight improbable. Top Rank share a frosty relationship with Frampton adviser Al Haymon and, while not impossible, it is doubtful that they would work together for this fight – indeed ‘The Jackal’ is not ranked by the WBO and it would seem an unimaginable voluntary defence for the two-time Olympian

WBA-ranked Scott Quigg [32(24)-1(0)-2] is another fight that some may mention – but the general apathy towards a rematch among all people except those named Scott Quigg, and the tortuous negotiations for their first fight last year, means that this one next is probably as close to impossible as you could get.

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