By Alan Hubbard
Split decisions are all the rage in boxing these days. We’ve had a fistful of them of late, including both Golovkin-Canelo clashes, Tyson Fury’s dramatic and highly controversial draw with Deontay Wilder and Josh Warrington’s aggressive acquisition of the IBF world featherweight title from Lee Selby.
Big fight verdicts seem to be causing more arguments and divided opinions than the political split decision over Brexit.
Pardon a bit of trumpet blowing but I did forecast here that there would be split verdicts in both the Fury and Warrington bouts. And in the latter I was one of the few to predict a win for Warrington.
But if course it could go either way – that is the beauty of this BT Box Office blockbuster, an encounter that is perfectly balanced, brimming with passion on both sides and poised to thrill the nation as the fight of the year..
There may be a lesser rival TV attraction in London but as far as true boxing fans are concerned it is no contest. An authentic classic opposed to a bar room brawl. I know which one I will be watching.
Both Warrington and Frampton are articulate, intelligent examples of the best in boxing.
The former two-weight world champion Frampton will start slight favourite but, brilliant as his career he has been, he seems just a tad past his peak whereas with Warrington the best is yet to come.
The Leeds warrior has proved a popular holder of the International Boxing Federation featherweight belt, and he is the 28th boxer to do so in the history of the organisation since its inaugural champion in the division , the Korean Min Keun Oh in 1984.
Among Warrington’s forerunners who have held the title are some big names, among them Tom Johnson, Johnny Tapia, Juan Manuel Marquez and Robert Guerrero. Paul Ingle and Lee Selby are the only other Brits, apart from Josh, who have done so.
The IBF was formed out if the United States Boxing Association in April 1983 and despite a dodgy past has emerged as one of the most credible in the alphabet soup of boxing’s governing bodies. It is one of four major sanctioning bodies recognised by the International Boxing Hall of Fame along with the WBC, WBA and WBO.
In August of 2000, then IBF president Bob Lee was acquitted of charges that he took bribes from promoters and managers to manipulate boxers’ rankings, but he was found guilty of tax evasion, money laundering and interstate travel in aid of racketeering. He was sentenced to 22 months in prison and fined $25,000.
Warrington is a worthy holder of the highly-prized featherweight belt. He has been a professional for nine years with a flawless 27-0 record and takes a compelling view of the coming encounter with Frampton, who he clearly respects. “Beating Carl, who is a genuine world-class boxer, will put me on the world stage. It’s going to be very hard, as he’s a great fighter, but I’m very confident. There is no way I’m going to slag Carl to build a fight. I respect him and we’re both in our prime. We’re going to go at it, hammer and tongs, for my world title. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? We’re not swearing and pushing each other in the build up. But we’ll have a real scrap.”
True, neither Frampton nor Warrington have been tempted to engage in the traditional bad-mouthing which often precedes the ring action. This is a testimony to the character of true fighting men who are role models for their sport.
For years, Frampton regarded 32 as the age that he would hang up his gloves and walk away from a sport to which he had given everything he had, breathing a huge sigh of relief that the days of training camps and weeks in the gym were behind him.
His fight against Warrington – which also will be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live – will be his last before reaching that number, but Frampton’s plans to walk away from boxing have been shelved and replaced with a desire for an indefinite stay at the top.
On Saturday, neither fighter has to look far to find motivating factors with the bout expected to bring together two of the most vocal fan bases in the sport from both sides of the Irish Sea.
For Frampton, the chance to seize the IBF belt from an undefeated fighter is a great motivation, but the extra driving force is the knowledge that a win guarantees even bigger fights while a loss would leave a cloud hanging over his career.
I feel Josh has the perfect technique to frustrate him, as he did Selby, ploughing forward from the start, shrugging off the jab, crowding and out-finally gaming him. But it won’t be easy and the ringside judges may find it difficult ro split them after 12 torrid, pulsating rounds.
Indeed, this a humdinger of a fight, so fasten those seat belts, sit back and enjoy the ride.
IBF world featherweight champion Josh Warrington takes on former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton at the Manchester Arena on December 22nd live on BT Sport Box Office. Mark Heffron and Liam Williams contest the vacant British middleweight title and Belfast’s blue chip featherweight prospect Michael Conlan (9-0) takes on former commonwealth champion Jason Cunningham (24-5). Elsewhere on the bill World flyweight title challenger Paddy Barnes (5-1) and unbeaten Light Heavyweight contender Steven Ward (9-0 returns to acttion as, in an added special attraction does former WBO middleweight vhampion BillyJoe Saunders (26-0)/
Tickets are priced at £50 Upper Tier, £80 Tier, £100 Tier, £150 Tier, £200 Floor/Tier, £300 Floor, £400 Floor, £600 Inner Ring VIP Hospitality and are available. Tickets available via Manchester Arena.