MANCHESTER THE ONLY PLACE TO BE
THE FRANK WARREN COLUMN
By Frank Warren
GET READY FOR one of the greatest fight nights for many a year when the Manchester Arena opens its doors on Saturday ahead of a main event from which we can expect nothing less than fireworks from start to finish.
Josh Warrington defending his IBF world featherweight title against two-weight world champion Carl Frampton is as big as it gets in the division and all the ingredients are perfectly ripe for cooking up a storm.
These two are part of the elite of the division, they are on the up, both in their prime and bang in form, which gives us a genuine 50-50 domestic world title fight between two endearing characters who both enjoy a mammoth support.
The atmosphere inside the arena I am sure will be absolutely spine-tingling and I just cannot see how these two can fail to deliver the spoils for their respective army of fans and those tuning in on BT Sport Box Office.
It has been well documented that we have been confronted with a wholly avoidable clash of shows on the night, but you hardly need to be a boxing aficionado to know which one will deliver the goods in a big way.
The best fighting the best should always be the barometer and that is what we have got with Josh and Carl, a natural fight that will provide essential viewing, rather than cobbling together a last-minute Christmas panto to top up the PPV quota for the year.
Fans need to be aware of expensive imitations of the real deal.
I have heard very few pundits or experts make a confident call between Josh and Carl and it will be fascinating to witness it all unfold on the night.
They both want the same thing and that is to be part of legacy-defining fights at the highest level. That is the way we are heading with both of them now, whatever the outcome, because there are more huge occasions to be had across 2019.
The winner will naturally talk about unification fights and rightly so, but if this fight is as good and close as we anticipate it being, then don’t rule out the demand to do it all again, with the winner on home soil.
This show, proudly topped by such a hugely compelling domestic duel, is our first home promotion on the BT Box Office platform and we are starting as well fully intend to go on with a stacked card of fights that could be headliners in their own right.
None more so than the battle for the British middleweight title between Mark Heffron and Liam Williams. You really don’t want to miss this one.
Mark is going to become a genuine force to be reckoned with at 160lbs. He can bang – as his 17KOs from his 21 fights suggests – he can box and is a destructive operator who is exciting to watch.
There weren’t any takers amongst the domestic middles when the opportunity to challenge him for the vacant title came about following the champion vacating after purse bids were won and the date booked in for Manchester.
That tells you something, but the call was answered emphatically when the opportunity was put to Liam Williams to step up and bid to become a two-weight British champion.
Liam is a world level super welterweight looking to put himself back in the world title picture after coming off a close second to Liam Smith in their two absorbing fights in 2017. He will make a massive statement if he claims the unbeaten record of Mark and also give himself the option of remaining at the weight.
Liam is a huge light middle so there is not going to be much between them physically on the night. It is just one of those fights that has got war written all over it.
Another one not shy of putting it all on the line is Martin Murray, who you have to admire for continuing to operate at such a high level at the age of 36. Martin knows himself he is now punching in the last chance saloon as he hunts down a fifth world title shot, but he insisted he wanted to be tested to the limit and he will be by former world champion Hassan N’dam.
It is another candidate for fight of the night because you know what you are going to get when two warriors go at it and the stakes are high.
Not quite at the highest level just yet, we also have two of the finest prospects in world boxing featuring on the card in Nathan Gorman and Michael Conlan.
Heavyweight Nathan is taking a step up in class against Razvan Cojanu, whose previous two fights have been against Luis Ortiz and Joseph Parker, so it is a fantastic opportunity for Nathan to really put a marker down in the division and announce himself.
I am delighted that our association with Top Rank has made adding Michael to the bill possible. He is a huge talent who will add to the Belfast flavour of the evening when he takes on the experienced Jason Cunningham in his first professional assignment on English soil.
As an added Christmas bonus on the night we also welcome back Billy Joe Saunders. It is important to get him back in the swing of things before the turn of the year so we can set about making sure that 2019 is when Billy Joe finally gets to enjoy a momentous year and shows everyone where he belongs, which is right at the top of the world middleweight division.
The top quality action will come thick and fast on BT Sport Box Office – the ONLY place to be come Saturday night.