After bagging bonafide world titles in two separate weight classes, and unifying global belts at 122lbs, Ulster icon Carl Frampton has few remaining goals to fulfil within the sport of boxing….but headlining at the national football stadium in his native Belfast is certainly one of them!
The 31 year old ‘Jackal’ gets to cross that off his bucket list this weekend when he makes a maiden defence of the WBO ‘interim’ featherweight strap – snared so masterfully against seven time, four-weight Filipino world champion Nonito Donaire last April – against 16-0 Tasmanian devil Luke ‘Action’ Jackson on the hallowed Windsor Park turf.
‘I flew into Belfast to see my kids and, from the airport, there’s billboards of my face all over the place. The city will be a frenzy all week. Everywhere Luke Jackson looks, he’ll see pictures of me. He’ll know he’s in my town!’ warns the Jamie Moore coached champion who has conceded just once in a 26 fight, nine year career.
‘I actually support Crusaders FC from North Belfast rather than Linfield who play their home .games there but I’m a big Northern Ireland football fan who went to many internationals at Windsor Park with my dad as a youngster.
‘At the moment, our national team are performing very well but the side weren’t very good when I went, about 120th in the FIFA rankings. But I always loved the passion of the fans. They’d be going mental even if we might be losing 4-0. It’s a special, special place to me.
‘The opportunity to finally shine at Windsor Park has certainly helped with my motivation. I can assure fans that I’ve worked very, very hard for Luke Jackson.
‘I’ve been pleading for this opportunity for a long time so it needs to be a big performance to show my gratitude to Frank Warren for delivering. With Tyson Fury also fighting and Deontay Wilder prowling at ringside, fireworks are guaranteed.’
Frampton states: ‘I genuinely wanted a world title fight for Windsor but (WBC boss) Gary Russell Jr only fights once every two years and, of the other champions, Oscar Valdez (WBO) is still injured and Leo Santa Cruz (WBA) defended quite recently. If Lee Selby had beaten Josh Warrington it would have happened. (The Welshman conceded his IBF crown on a split decision in May)
‘But the stadium fight had to take place in August and Josh said he wasn’t available which is absolutely his prerogative…and I desperately wanted to fulfil my dream of fighting at Windsor Park when the opportunity presented itself. I couldn’t give it up.
‘Luke’s a solid all-round fighter. There’s not a lot of footage of his recent fights but he has a decent ‘German-like’ defence. He has a tight high guard and blocks a lot with his gloves.
‘He’ll no doubt have taken confidence from how I faded late in my comeback fight with Horacio Garcia last November. But I had big (contractual) problems outside the ring. I was also coming off my first loss. I only had a seven-week camp when, ideally, I have 12 weeks and it was my first start with a new trainer.
‘We know Jackson’s plan will be to drag me into the second half but there’s two problems. Firstly, the way I’ve been punching in prep, it’ll take a lot to get himself into the second half of the fight and, if he does manage that, he’ll discover I can breeze through 15 rounds, never mind 12!
‘I’m certainly not overlooking him, I just believe I’m a lot better than him….but then I believe that, at my best, I’m better than every other featherweight on the planet. I don’t want to put undue pressure on myself but, from the way I’ve performed in training, I expect to knock him out spectacularly!’