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Can Darren Traynor derail Carl Frampton’s comeback?

Carl Frampton
Matt Bozeat previews Carl Frampton's and Michael Conlan's fights this Saturday

CARL FRAMPTON wants his name at the top of the list when the conversation turns to Ireland’s greatest ever boxer. To be sure of that, the 33-year-old believes he needs a world title at a third weight and it’s that thought that has kept him going through his recent misfortunes. First, there was the freak accident that left him with a broken fifth metacarpal in his left hand days before he was set to fight Emmanuel Dominguez in Philadelphia 12 months ago. Frampton put that that behind him to post what appeared to be a straightforward 10-round points win over Tyler McCreary last November, his first fight for nearly a year.

The better boxer in every department that night, Frampton later revealed he went into that fight with a fractured left hand and he then broke his right hand in the seventh round. Days before Christmas, he underwent surgery to have seven screws and a plate inserted in his left hand and a metal gauze in his right.

The plan was then for Frampton to challenge WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring in home city Belfast on June 13 – before COVID-19.

Herring was subsequently found to have the symptoms before being given the all clear to defend against Jonathan Oquendo on September 5, while Frampton has had another hiccup ahead of his return to action this weekend. Until last week, he was fighting Vahram Vardanyan at the BT Sport Studios on Saturday night (August 15), but the Armenian was unable to get a visa and in steps Darren Traynor, a 33-year-old from Aberdeen who’s won Scottish honours at three weights and challenged for the British featherweight title in his 16-3 career.

Traynor hasn’t been active, fighting only once since an eight-round points loss to former European super-featherweight champion Juli Giner in Barcelona in June 2018 and only 19 times in total since turning over nine years ago. He did buzz Ryan Walsh briefly in a challenge for the British featherweight championship in January, 2016 before being stopped in five and James Tennyson, one of the bigger pound-for-pound punchers on the domestic scene, also stopped Traynor, inside three rounds.

“Trayn Wreck” as he calls himself, has been more successful at Scottish Area level, winning national honours at featherweight, lightweight and super-lightweight. Traynor mixed in good company as an amateur. In the 2007 EU championships, he lost on points to Yakup Kilic and the Turk won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, losing in the semi finals to Vasyl Lomachenko.

Carl Frampton
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Still, his boxing CV doesn’t compare to Frampton’s, who on the evidence of the McCreary fight still has plenty left. Frampton was as sharp as could have been expected to be that night, given he had been out for almost a year since the loss to Josh Warrington. The story of the McCreary 10-rounder was that Frampton was simply too good in every department for the 26-year-old from Toledo, Ohio. McCreary discovered that advantages of youth (six years), height (four inches) and reach (11 ½ inches) count for nothing when there are levels between the fighters. McCreary had never fought anywhere near world level and there were moments when it seemed he was wishing the fight away as he checked the clock and took in deep breaths. He couldn’t land his jab, couldn’t stop Frampton getting close – and the body punches really hurt. McCreary was down in the sixth and ninth rounds.

The likelihood is Frampton’s career peaked when he beat Leo Santa Cruz in their first fight in July, 2016, though the win over Nonito Donaire now looks even better given that “The Filipino Flash” went on to test Naoya Inoue in 2019’s Fight of the Year, albeit down at bantamweight.

Frampton hasn’t seen his name in the pound-for-pound lists for a while, but he remains a top operator, surely way too good for Traynor. Providing complacency doesn’t set in, or he’s drawn into an ugly dog fight, he should stop the Scot around the halfway point.

WBO super-bantamweight champion Angelo Leo has been on Michael Conlan’s radar since the Irishman decided to drop down to 122lbs. The 28 year old meets French southpaw Sofiane Takoucht (35-4-1) over 10 in Stratford.

Fans here will remember Warrington overwhelming Takoucht in a couple of rounds in Leeds last October in a defence of his IBF featherweight title, the Frenchman’s last fight. Conlan’s form is rather better. Last December, he avenged the controversial loss to Vladimir Nikitin in the 2012 London Olympics (Nikitin also beat him in 2013 World Championship) with a comprehensive 10-round points win at Madison Square Garden.

The Adam Booth-trained Conlan (13-0) ended the fight cut on his right eyebrow. That wound appeared in the last minute of the eighth during a rare exchange. Conlan got the better of it – smashing a right hand off Nikitin’s jaw that stiffened his legs – but mostly, he outboxed the Russian.

Conlan spent most of the fight as a southpaw and it seems that when he boxes as a left hander he’s more slippery and it’s when he boxes orthodox that he looks for power punches and gets caught more often.

The Nikitin plan was to pressure Conlan and when he got the Irishman where he wanted him, put everything into every punch. But it seemed that every time he thought he had Conlan pinned down, he either grabbed or found an escape route, often adding to the Russian’s frustration by clipping him with a check right hook on the way out.

The only time Conlan took any meaningful shots was when he gave Nikitin chances to hit him in that eighth round by standing in front of him and punching with him. The gamble Conlan took by trading with Nikitin cost him that cut, but appeared to pay off. The right hand the Russian shipped seem to take something out of him.

Nikitin found what other opponents have found. That it’s hard to land a punch on Conlan and even harder to land two or three. Doncaster left hander Jason Cunningham rocked him onto his heels in the fourth round of their fight in December, 2018 after beating him to the punch with a southpaw right hook.

“He was smart and crafty after I caught him,” remembered Cunningham. “I tried to jump on him, but he rode it out.”

Takoucht isn’t known as a puncher – 13 early wins on the record – and the 34-year-old looks to have a twitchy jab-and-counter style.
He hadn’t been stopped until Warrington set about him, made him engage and blasted him to the floor twice. That’s not the Conlan way. He can box his way to a wide points win.

The Verdict Frampton needs rounds but is Traynor really good enough to sharpen up the former champ?

Read an exclusive interview with Carl Frampton here

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