By: Oliver McManus
An all-action, all-British grudge match to close the year out in style, listen not to the murmurings of a heavyweight event down South, Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton is the only fight you need this Saturday night.
Headlining a wonderful fight card at the Manchester Arena, Warrington-Frampton is the epitome of a 50-50 domestic clash. Neither fighter had to take this bout, there were options out there, but a desire to prove themselves as number one in 126lb division prevailed.
Warrington, the defending champion, has enjoyed a faultless career to date with an unblemished record after 27 bouts. Debuting in October 2009, Warrington made a name for himself on the small hall scene for the first four years in the paid ranks, gaining the experience at a young age.
Winning the English Featherweight belt over Chris Male in the back end of 2012, followed up by defences against Jamie Speight and Ian Bailey, elevated him to a position whereby Eddie Hearn came a-calling. The rest, as they say, is history. The perennial underdog, Warrington added the Commonwealth, British, European and WBC International straps to his name before he finally got a world title shot last year.
May 19th, a night that will go down in Leeds folklore, Warrington faced an embittered Lee Selby in front of a raucous home crowd. Few gave him the nod pre-fight but the underdog came out and fought masterfully on the front foot – a split decision win, one that few could argue with.
Against Carl Frampton, Josh Warrington retains that moniker of underdog, the asterisk against his name that has followed him his whole career. Warrington will go in as he always does, hungry. For many Carl Frampton has little left to prove, he’s had a dazzling career and is, arguably, Britain’s number one pound-for-pound but Josh Warrington is still that ‘lucky lad from Leeds’, isn’t he?
Far from it, the lucky lad is now a bona fide champion having done it the hard way. My expectation is that Warrington will approach this contest looking to take it to Frampton, try and force his opponent into faltering. Warrington will be in Frampton’s face from the off, there little chance of this being a highly-technical encounter. That’s not a slur on the ability of Warrington, by no stretch, but he performs better when setting a high-tempo, fighting hard and giving no quarter.
Carl Frampton, then. The challenger. And what a challenge it is as he faces the toughest domestic opponent possible, his toughest night since Leo Santa Cruz, but the route back to where he wants to be. Unification fights with Oscar Valdez, Santa Cruz and Gary Russel Jr will await the winner, Frampton is no stranger to that glory.
Four months on from a devastating beat-down of Luke Jackson – the Australian a hardy warrior – Frampton will enter the ring in Manchester looking to claim the fourth different world title to his name. The last two fights – Nonito Donaire and Luke Jackson – have seen Frampton return to form approaching his best and that consistency over the year, a fight every four months – will stand him in good stead.
The Jackal looks relaxed when he’s fighting, he looks content, and the style of Warrington has potential to play into his hands. Demonstrating a wonderful ability to box on the back foot, Frampton has landed some beautiful counter-right hooks in his last couple of fights. Oftentimes an opponent has looked to be in the clear, with Frampton at range, but before you know it he’s in your face.
Styles produce great fights and Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton have the perfect styles to produce a genuine Fight of the Year – what more could you ask for?
How about a sensational dust-up between Mark Heffron and Liam Williams for the British middleweight title? A long time mandatory, Heffron was granted a “free shot” at the title after Jason Welborn relinquished the crown in order to fight Jarrett Hurd.
Make no mistake, though, Williams will be as strong a challenger as they come and the Welsh boxer will enter the ring on the back of two thunderous knockout victories this year. The rebuild from back-to-back losses against Liam Smith saw Williams join Dominic Ingle and the boxer has looked crisp and rejuvenated in the ring.
Having been in camp preparing for a 50-50 clash with JJ Metcalf, Williams steps up in weight to challenge for the British title and will carry his power into the new division with relative ease. With Williams looking to pursue higher honours, the change in weight seems a sensible move and the former British & Commonwealth super-welterweight champion is jumping straight into the deep end.
Heffron, himself, has been preparing for a British title for the best part of four months and produced a super performance back in June when he stopped Andrew Robinson in the 6th. That fight saw Heffron claim the WBC International strap and Kid Dynamite looked classy in the ring with a strong control of the tempo, working the angles and remaining patient before seizing his opportunity.
Martin Murray, WBC Silver middleweight champion, takes on Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam in a fight that packs fireworks. Murray, scheduled to face Billy Joe Saunders on two occasions this year, has not hidden the fact that this is his last crack at the route to a world title. N’Dam, WBA Regular champion last year, lost the title in a rematch with Ryota Murata last October but is a fighter who knows nothing but aggression. The French-Cameroonian offers Murray the opportunity to enhance his spot in the rankings ahead of a 2019 world title tilt but, make no mistake, this isn’t going to be one-way traffic.
Nathan Gorman was scheduled to take on Alex Leapai until the Australian withdrew last week. The challenge in front of Gorman, now, is Razvan Cojanu who faced Joseph Parker for the WBO title last year. Scheduled for 10 rounds and in defense of his WBC International Silver title, Nathan Gorman has a real opportunity to add a scalp to his record – by no means someone to be sniffed at – and move one step ahead of Daniel Dubois on the heavyweight ladder.
Michael Conlan will look to go 10 and 0 in only his second professional fight in the United Kingdom as he takes on, former Commonwealth champion, Jason Cunningham whilst the stacked undercard is completed by the additions of Billy Joe Saunders, Lyndon Arthurt, Jack Massey, Paddy Barnes, Tommy Fury, Sam Maxwell, Troy Williamson and Danny Wright.
Box Office entertainment at its finest… I hope you’ve got your purple card ready because it’s going to be a blockbuster!