On 18th August at Windsor Park, Belfast, Carl Frampton [25(14)-1(0)] will take on Luke Jackson [16(7)-0] for the WBO interim Featherweight title. It is, however, one of those matchups where the occasion is bigger than the fight itself. This is about a hometown boy fulfilling his dream, about local fans being treated to something they have never seen before. Frampton doesn’t just remember his roots, he puts them front and centre of his brand. Windsor Park will be an emotional night for him.
To understand why there is so much buzz about the date, you need to get into the psyche of Northern Ireland and its relationship with sport. Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement led to relative peace in the region, many people are still staunchly divided on political and social issues. Northern Ireland has not had a government since January 2017, both sides stubbornly refusing to get into a room with each other.
Frampton transcends identity politics of the North
But sport is the great unifier, just as it can be in all parts of the world. Nobody cares about Frampton’s views on Brexit, flags or hard borders. In their eyes, Frampton is not tagged with being British or Irish, he is Northern Irish. Like George Best, the lad from Tigers Bay transcends the identity politics that have blighted Northern Ireland for more than half a century.
Let’s be clear though, Windsor Park is no Croke Park or Wembley Stadium. And, Luke Jackson is no Leo Santa Cruz or Oscar Valdez. The best odds for a Frampton win are coming in at 1/33 (Black Type), with the majority of major legal sports betting companies coming in at 1/66. Odds for Aussie Jackson, who has something of an inflated-looking unbeaten record, are as big as 40/1. In short, Frampton wants an easy win in the first fight at Northern Ireland’s national stadium.
Fury also on the card
The buzz around the fight night is also helped by the appearance of Tyson Fury on the card. The heavyweight [26(19)-0] will make his second fight since his heavily hyped comeback in June. Fury takes on Italian journeyman Francesco Pianeta [35(21)-4-1] in another bout that looks one-sided. Some bookies are as low as 1/100 on the controversial Brit, with Pianeta coming in at about 20/1 (Betfair).
But, despite Fury’s box-office credentials, the night will belong to Frampton. He has done his best to hype the fight, making it seem like his opponent has a chance to make a career out of it. It would, however, be one of the biggest shocks in modern boxing if the Aussie leaves Windsor Park with the victory.
Warrington up next for Frampton
Those following Frampton’s career, and he has legions of devoted fans in boxing-mad Belfast, will be happy enough with the step back in class. They know that he has bigger matches to come in his future, but they are mindful that the Northern Irishman is at a point of recalibration. Josh Warrington looks like the next step for building momentum, but the ultimate goal seems to a completion of the trilogy against Leo Santa Cruz.
Where and when Frampton comes up against the Mexican remains to be seen. But, for the moment, the wider boxing world should recognise that Frampton’s Windsor Park date is about more than just a vanity exercise. It’s about setting off on a journey to the top again, a journey on which he takes the people, his people, with him.