CARL FRAMPTON insists he is fighting for much more than himself when he steps into the ring against Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The Ulsterman outpointed Scott Quigg in a massively hyped super-bantamweight unification fight in February, and is going straight into a potentially career-defining meeting with unbeaten Santa Cruz.
The WBA world featherweight title – a crown Frampton’s manager and mentor, Barry McGuigan, once held – will also be on the line, and Carl feels ready to bring it back into their hands.
“Obviously I have enough motivation on my own, but it would be nice to bring back the title that Barry once owned,” he said.
“It feels a bit like destiny for me. It’s my turn to win it back for him. I’m doing this for my whole team. I’m doing this for my family and I’m doing this for my entire country.
“This is a dream of mine. To come to America and box is something I’ve always wanted to do. Barclays Center is taking over as the best venue in New York and I’m going to look to put on a world-class performance. It will take my best to get this victory.”
The super-popular Northern Irishman is expecting over 1,000 of his loyal fans to make the journey across the Atlantic for fight night. He flew to America a few weeks ago and has stayed in New Rochelle, a few miles outside of New York City.
He’s now in the city and soaking up the fight week atmosphere – something he says he can now enjoy thanks to the extra four pounds he’s allowed on the scales.
Though he has fought his professional career at super-bantam, Frampton insists he is much more comfortable at featherweight. He also refutes claims that Santa Cruz will have a significant size advantage on the night.
“I’m feeling strong mentally and physically. I feel like my stamina level has increased with the new weight. I’m eating well and enjoying myself,” he said.
“I’ve dealt with fighting bigger guys throughout my whole career. I’m used to it. I’ve fought bigger guys than Santa Cruz. I think on fight night I’m going to be stronger. People forget that he started his career at bantamweight while I fought as a featherweight in the amateurs. On the night, I’ll be the bigger man and that will be the difference.”
Not only is Frampton dealing with a new weight, he is the betting underdog for the first time in his paid career – though only by a thin margin.
The fight, admittedly, has received less attention than Frampton’s meeting with Quigg, despite it being one of the best fights – on paper – of 2016.
In America, where Frampton has only fought once, having to rise from two first round knockdowns to outpoint Alejandro Gonzalez, Santa Cruz is fancied to remain unbeaten – and Carl wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The last time I was an underdog was 2009 during the Irish championships. I was a massive underdog and everyone who knew me won a lot of money that night,” he said.
“Leo is a great fighter. He’s world class. Easily the toughest opponent that I’ve faced so far. But I think I’m Leo’s best opponent as well. I think this has all the ingredients to be a top quality fight. I’ve had a hard training camp and I’m ready to leave everything in the ring.
“I’ve got a game plan. I’m not going to blink. We’re hoping that ‘game plan A’ will work, but if not, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.
“All the pressure is on Santa Cruz. Everyone is expecting him to win. I’m going to come in there and upset him. I’m here to put on a great performance and bring the belt back home.”