A meeting between two highly decorated boxers will take place this Saturday night (April 21) at SSE Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Home fighter and former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton will trade punches with former four-weight world boss Nonito Donaire of The Philippines.
Both men are looking to get back to wearing a world belt around their waist. For the winner there should be an opportunity to fight for another world crown in their next outing. The WBO have put their interim 126lb belt on the line meaning that the winner, in theory, could face champion Oscar Valdez for the full title later on this year.
For two fighters accustomed to operating at the highest level, losing Saturday's bout isn't an option. For this reason I'm expecting the BT Sport (UK) / Showtime (USA) broadcast to be worth watching.
The buildup to fight night has been cordial and classy. The combatants are sportsmen in every sense of the word so there has been no trash talking. Both boxers have been discussing the fight though and appear to be confident based on recent comments.
Donaire told The Philippine Star: “Frampton's not like anyone I've fought before. He reminds me a little of Fernando Montiel whom I knocked out with a single left hook in 2011. I know the fans will go all out to cheer for Frampton in his hometown but that's not a problem for me. Once the fight starts I won't hear the crowd.”
Meanwhile Frampton spoke to the website of his promoter, Frank Warren: “With so much riding on this fight I need to make sure that I'm going to put in the performance of my career, which it might take to win this fight. I love fighting at home, there's something about fighting in Belfast that brings out the best in me. I'll need to be better than I was in my last fight.”
Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (38-4-0, 24KOs) has been a pro since 2001 and is now 35-years-old. His very impressive campaign in the paid ranks has seen him capture world titles in four different weight classes – becoming a unified champion in three of them. While his best days and lofty positions on the mythical pound-for-pound lists are behind him, Donaire is still a dangerous opponent. His speed and left hook must be respected at all times.
The bulk of Donaire's success came in the lower weight classes although he did briefly hold the WBA “Super” version of the featherweight crown in 2014. He lost that belt in his first defence to Nicholas Walters. Walters proved to be too strong and powerful as he handed Donaire his only stoppage defeat so far.
After that rough-housing Donaire dropped back down to the 122lb division – regaining his old WBO title before losing it via unanimous decision to Jessie Magdaleno in November 2016.
Donaire only gloved up once in 2017 – again stepping up to featherweight – winning by decision against Ruben Garcia Hernandez in September. He now finds himself one fight away from another world title bout.
Carl “The Jackal” Frampton (24-1-0, 14KOs) had a 2017 to forget. The two-weight world champion lost his WBA “Super” 126lb title to Leo Santa Cruz in a rematch of their summer 2016 classic in New York. Frampton then saw a July comeback bout with Andres Gutierrez fall apart in bizarre circumstances just hours before he was due in the ring. After this festering problems behind the scenes came to a head as Frampton parted company with his promoter, manager and trainer.
The newly managed, trained and promoted Frampton resurfaced in November for a tune-up fight against Horacio Garcia. The contest was won on points by Frampton but his display didn't hit the heights we know he is capable of. Some good early work was largely forgotten as the ten round bout closed with Frampton losing rounds and looking short of stamina while his corner seemed indecisive.
Frampton gets a pass from this writer for that showing. The amount of upheaval away from the ring must have taken its toll on him. Now though, having had a full training camp and more time to work with new trainer Jamie Moore, it is time for Frampton to deliver a vintage performance.
I wanted to get another perspective on this fight so I contacted my NY FIGHTS colleague John Gatling for his view. Referencing some of the earlier quoted Donaire comments, John told me this: “Since he wants to go down memory lane, I still can't get over Donaire getting chopped up by Nicholas “Axe Man” Walter over six disturbingly violent rounds in October 2014. Saying Carl Frampton reminds him of Fernando Montiel at 35 is pushing things. If he's serious about fighting “The Jackal” that way – as “The Filipino Flash” with low batteries – that'll make for a great fight in which he probably gets stopped late. Frampton's Northern Irish faithful know the stakes are high for this mini megafight and will rock the SSE Arena in Belfast. Frampton should survive a last hoorah initially before grinding his way to a UD if he doesn't stop a game Donaire late.”
I find it hard to disagree with any of that analysis – my own prediction is Frampton via unanimous decision. A couple of things to look for though; before the fight I'm interested to see how Frampton does on the scales and as the bout begins how aggressive will Donaire be as the two men of similar size go to work?
The weight issue is relevant as before his subsequently cancelled bout with Gutierrez, Frampton had missed the featherweight number and his fight with Garcia was contracted north of 126lbs. Having seen some training camp footage “The Jackal” looks to be in terrific condition so any scale fail would be a surprise.
As for a fast start from Donaire – “The Filipino Flash” may regard this as worth the risk. If it works he takes command of the fight and quietens the crowd a bit.
The clock is ticking down to opening bell and the excitement levels are rising within the boxing community. Although both men are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, the veteran ring warriors should combine to give us a great spectacle on Saturday. For one of them, a large part of the journey back to the top of the mountain will have been negotiated. For the other the road back there may seem impossibly long and steep. Frampton vs. Donaire is a must win fight.