By Sean Crose
What’s the best way to put this?
Those of us who came of age in the 70s and 80s must be forgiven for having a certain…boxing prejudice. Back then, America ruled the roost when it came to the sweet science. Okay, let me refine that. Back then The AMERICAS ruled the roost when it came to the sweet science. Sure, a fighter could be from an ethnic background, but if he wasn’t a product of what they used to call the New World, well, then he probably wasn’t considered very good.
After all, boxers from the other side of the Atlantic simply didn’t dominate the way Western Hemisphere fighters did. James Watt, Frank Bruno, John Mugabi, Mustafa Hamsho, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, and Sumbu Kalambay may have been good, sure. They just weren’t Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns or Mike Tyson.
Times have changed, though, and those us us born before Reagan was in the White House better get with the program if we haven’t already. Lennox Lewis may not be getting the credit he deserves for his heavyweight reign, but the man ushered in a new era. Boxing is now truly a sport that spans the entire globe, rather than just, say, one half or one third of it. Just look at the heavyweight division if you don’t believe it. You may not like the Klitschkos, but name me one person from this side of the Atlantic who’s been able to best one of the brothers these past few years.
Now we have a new name reaching our shores from Europe. If you’re a serious boxing fan, you’ve probably heard it already. If you follow the sport casually, however, allow me to introduce you to one Carl Frampton. A product of Northern Ireland, Frampton fights in the super bantamweight division. He’s got a thin but perfect record and is willing to come here to America to ply his trade. Oh, and he wants to fight Leo Santa Cruz.
And Leo Santa Cruz wants to fight him. Curious yet? Well, for starters, Frampton possess real power. Just ask IBF super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez. He met Frampton last winter and took what can only be described as a world class beating. The same can be said for former world champion Steve Molitor. Framptom went through the Canadian like a warm knife through butter.
And while it’s true that Martinez and Molitor aren’t exactly premiere attractions, it’s good to keep in mind that Frampton is managed by Barry McGuigan. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, then grasp this – McGuigan was that rarest of rarities – an 80s era European fighter who was actually able to impress people across the sea (and I don’t mean the English Channel). The Irish featherweight was gaining some real popularity in America before the Vegas heat and the sheer heart of Steve Cruz took his title and bright future from him.
The point here is that McGuigan knows the sport on a championship level. He also knows how to earn inter-continental appeal. Oh, and he knows how to box, too. None of this would matter, of course, if Frampton didn’t know how to box himself. He does, though, and that’s why he should be taken seriously.
What’s impressive about Frampton isn’t so much his punching power – though it’s impressive – as it is his ability to change styles. One minute he’s fighting like a small version of Roberto Duran, the next he’s fighting like a really small version of Gene Tunney. I’ve seen the guy destroy one opponent with body blows, but I’ve also seen him knock out another while fighting in retreat.
Versatility is a rarity in the boxing world and, at the moment at least, Frampton seems to have it. That’s why the man may well be the real thing – because no one knows which Frampton is going to be in the ring from one moment to the next. Not even Leo Santa Cruz or Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Time will tell the tale on this one.