CARL FRAMPTON believes his ambition burns brighter than ever as he looks to prise the IBF featherweight title away from Josh Warrington at Manchester Arena this weekend.
Frampton is the favourite with bookmakers to become world champion for a second time at the 126lbs limit – almost two years after Leo Santa Cruz took his WBA crown by handing the Northern Irishman his only professional defeat.
The interim period since that setback has been occasionally turbulent, with Frampton changing promoter and trainer, and there have been some suggestions that the Belfast fighter’s best days are behind him.
The former two-weight world champion bristles at the mention of being past his peak.
Speaking at the final press conference, he said: “[My ambition] is probably there more than ever because I’ve been written off.
“I think it’s been unjust because you look at the fights I’ve had – Quigg, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz – and I got beat [by Santa Cruz] in a close fight after beating him in the first fight, and people think I’m done.
“I’ve had three fights to get [another world title fight]. I’m not going to let anyone take it away from me. I want this title more than I’ve ever wanted a title.
“There are people out there who have doubted me and people who think that I’m done, and this will be sticking the fingers up to them and saying there’s plenty left to give.”
Frampton reiterated his belief that he is a superior fighter since switching coaches from Shane McGuigan to Jamie Moore last year.
He added: “I was beating guys like Santa Cruz and even Quigg when I wasn’t really enjoying boxing. If I’m being honest I hated it but I was still getting big performances.
“But now I’m enjoying it. Now I look forward to the gym, now I put in maximum effort in training sessions, I’m switched on, I have a much smarter approach through my camps.”
Warrington denied accusations he had written Frampton off as “over the hill” but added his foe’s last three wins against Horacio Garcia, Nonito Donaire and Luke Jackson give little indication of whether he is still at the elite level.
The Yorkshireman said: “I never said he was past his best. But you can’t judge the performances against [Nonito] Donaire and Luke Jackson the same as the one against Santa Cruz.
“That’s probably when Carl was at the peak of his career. Obviously every fighter has peak years, it’s a long career and it’s a long time to hold that level.
“But me and my team are prepared for the very best Carl Frampton, I’d be a mug if I was to look at him as over the hill.”
Warrington is making the first defence of the crown he wrested from Lee Selby at his beloved Elland Road in May.
He insists he was not tempted to take the easy road of a soft defence and has his sights set on unifying the division next year.
He added: “I want the big fights. I believe I’m capable of beating any featherweight. I want to fight the best and talk of unification excites me. I wouldn’t want a steady one after this one either.
“I want to go straight over to the States and fight the likes of [WBO champion] Oscar Valdez. I’m loving the occasion, the camp, the build-up.”