June 30, 2016
June 30, 2016
Carl Frampton

Action Images/Jed Leicester

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CARL FRAMPTON is looking ‘phenomenal’ ahead of a fight that could define his career, according to trainer Shane McGuigan.

The Ulsterman, who unified the WBA and IBF super-bantamweight titles against Scott Quigg in February, is moving up to featherweight to challenge WBA boss Leo Santa Cruz on July 30.

While his points win over Quigg was a fairly quiet affair, Frampton is preparing for a busy fight against the wiry Mexican, who is unbeaten in 33 paid outings.

“He’s looking really good, we’re really looking forward to this fight. With the Quigg fight, there was a lot of barking, not much biting, it just didn’t materialise. If they had it again, possibly. I think there was a gulf in class there though,” McGuigan told Boxing News.

“The one thing with Leo Santa Cruz is that he always lets his hands go, when he’s moving forward or going back, he’s always punching. So, we have to dominate the rounds, it’s going to be the defining fight for Carl Frampton I believe.”

Frampton, who boasts an unblemished 22 fight record, had to field questions over his ability to make super-bantamweight after he was forced to recover from two early knockdowns in his points win over unfancied Alejandro Gonzalez last year.

That trip to Texas was Carl’s first professional fight in America and McGuigan has previously claimed they misjudged how Frampton’s body would acclimate to the Texan heat, rather than his charge having a general issue making 122lbs.

Now, with an extra four pounds of breathing room, McGuigan expects Frampton to perform at an even higher level.

“From what I’ve seen in the gym, he’s looking phenomenal,” he continued.

“Going into the last week, not having to cut as much weight, he’ll be feeling nice and happy. He’s not a pressure fighter, he boxes off the back foot and Frampton uses his legs a lot, he’ll feel even stronger in the later rounds. We’ve added weight sessions in, so he’ll be stronger.”

Santa Cruz’s already respectable stock sky-rocketed last year when he outpointed Abner Mares over 12 thrilling rounds. Leo weathered Mares’ early assaults to produce the cleaner work down the stretch, with the pair throwing over 2,000 punches between them.

Santa Cruz then went on to stop former Frampton victim Kiko Martinez in five rounds in another enveloping encounter. The 27-year-old three-weight world champion has since said Martinez was one of the strongest opponents he’s ever faced.

Frampton, who stopped Kiko in nine rounds before outpointing him for the IBF title in their rematch, is known for his intelligent boxing and explosive power. It remains to be seen whether he will carry that weaponry up to featherweight, but McGuigan is convinced his man will pose much more of a threat than Martinez.

“It’s going to be exciting, I’m excited to see his [Frampton’s] performance. I think foot work is important in this fight but I also think punching power, when you catch a guy coming forward who’s not been hit like that before,” he explained.

“He said Kiko Martinez was the strongest person he ever fought, and I think Frampton punches a lot harder than Martinez. When you’re moving forward and tired and taking shots, it’s hard, and you might see Carl stop him.”

On paper, Santa Cruz-Frampton is one of the best fights of the year and the fact Carl is a betting underdog for the first time in his professional career conveys just how competitive it is.

A stacked undercard was recently announced for the show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, which will feature Paulie Malignaggi and the long-awaited return of Mikey Garcia.