JOHN WIGHT analyses the build-up to Frampton v Quigg
As a script for a drama, the Carl Frampton v Scott Quigg super bantamweight world title unification clash in Manchester this weekend ticks every box.
Suspense, conflict, backstory, pathos and bathos — it’s all there as two of the country’s most accomplished and exciting fighters get ready to square off in what is undoubtedly the most anticipated domestic contest since the Carl Froch v George Groves rematch at Wembley in the summer of 2014.
And as if it needed it, further spice is added over the fact that both men will meet in the centre of the ring knowing that only one will leave with his undefeated record intact.
In the lead up to the fight, the bad blood between both camps has been of the authentic variety, with none of the synthetic histrionics often engaged by fighters and their teams in order to sell tickets and pay-per-view subscriptions.
You can bet, for example, that Frampton’s manager Barry McGuigan and Quigg’s trainer, Joe Gallagher, won’t be sitting down together for a cappuccino anytime soon — while Frampton’s disdain for Quigg’s promoter Eddie Hearn has been brutal.
The 29-year-old from Belfast was part of the Hearn stable earlier in his career. Given the barrage of abuse he’s been firing at the Sky Sports boxing supremo from the day the contracts were finally signed to make this fight four months ago, you’d think that Hearn had burned his house down and emptied his bank account back then.
Maybe in Frampton’s mind this isn’t far from the truth. Whatever his motives the end result has been Britain’s top promoter being verbally savaged in a way he probably hasn’t been by any other fighter since taking over the reins of the boxing end of the business from his old man, Barry Hearn.
In fact, such is the bad feeling between both camps the dispute over which fighter should get which dressing at the final press conference on Thursday bore all the hallmarks of a major international incident.
There’s something about a working-class upbringing in Belfast that makes its subject bullshit-proof and Frampton’s confidence going into this clash is entirely deserved given his sublime talent.
The IBF word champion boasts 14 KOs on his 21-fight unbeaten run and is widely acknowledged as an elite boxer-puncher equally effective boxing off the front or back foot.
Quigg, meanwhile, is no slouch himself when it comes to stopping opponents. Of the 33 he’s faced up to now, 23 haven’t heard the final bell. And as much as Frampton is considered by most to be the more accomplished boxer skills-wise, Quigg edges it in the power department.
The 27-year-old from Bury is one of the most improved fighters in the game, evidenced in his devastating second round stoppage of Spain’s Kiko Martinez in his last outing, the same Martinez that Frampton took nine rounds to dispatch in 2013.
This is one statistic in which Quigg and his team are placing great significance when it comes to justifying their confidence of coming away with both belts at fight’s end.
Another is the less than stellar performance of Frampton in his last outing against Alejandro Gonzalez in El Paso last summer, when he looked anything but sublime in a first round in which he touched the canvas twice before digging deep to labour his way to a hard earned victory on points.
Regardless of the claims made by both camps of the respective weaknesses and strengths of either fighter, this is the very definition of a 50-50 fight.
Awaiting the winner is the proverbial mountain to climb in the shape of a mandatory against Guillermo Rigondeaux.
The Cuban super bantamweight was stripped of the same WBA belt that is currently in the hands of Scott Quigg and is known to be itching to get it back.
The prospect of bagging both his old WBA strap along with its IBF counterpart ensures that the Cuban will be among the most interested spectators of events in Manchester come fight night.
Pacquiao has forever tarnished his reputation
It’s always tragic to witness the fall from grace of a genuine boxing great. Sad enough when it takes place inside the ring, as nature takes its course to blunt the edge of even the most complete and seemingly invincible package, and sadder still when it occurs outside the ring as drink, drugs, and/or bad investments take their sorry course.
But when you hear issuing from the lips of a fighter who throughout this career meant so much to so many the kind of vile bigotry that turns your stomach, it comes close to breaking your heart.
Manny Pacquiao’s recent biblically inspired attack on homosexuality, asserting that homosexuals were not better than animals, says much about the distorting influence of religion on the intellectually challenged.
Though he later retracted and apologised for any offence caused to the LGBT community — as if an apology could come close to mitigating the offence of such a grotesque assertion — the damage has been well and truly done.
Making matters far worse in Pacquiao’s case is the fact he commands a huge worldwide following and in his native Philippines is both a national icon and elected representative, even spoken of as a future presidential candidate.
It marks a sad end to a ring career that approaches its end in April, when the former eight-division world champion faces Timothy Bradley in what he has announced will be his last fight.
Though he approaches the fight a shadow of the fighter who at one time rolled over his opponents one after the other with blistering speed and ferocity, it would have been nice to see him go out with at least his reputation as a people’s champion intact.
Pacquiao’s use of the bible to justify his bigoted views reminds me of the conversation I had with his trainer Freddie Roach at his Wildcard Gym in Hollywood last year.
For some reason the subject of Pacman’s immersion in religion and the bible came up. When it did Roach quipped that he preferred him before, when he used to drink, keep late hours and bad company.