Boxing comment: George Best and Barry McGuigan head Ireland’s list of its most renowned sporting personalities.
Both men captured the imagination with their mix of class and controversy.
And while Best’s story ended in a tragic and abrupt end to his life, former world featherweight champion McGuigan lives on with the firm conviction that Carl Frampton will be the next huge Irish star.
Since retiring from the ring in 1989, McGuigan has carved out a successful media career as a boxing analyst but failed to become directly involved with a young prospect.
However, all that changed the moment the shrewd former fighter gazed upon the “exceptional talent” of Frampton, which convinced him he had found the young prospect he had been looking for.
An astute businessman like McGuigan would only invest his time and treasure as a manager if a talent could produce a handsome return.
And an early form guide strongly suggests that the “Jackal” just might make McGuigan’s day, as the 25-year-old has rapidly progressed to 15-0 in less than four years as a pugilist.
This Saturday sees Commonwealth champion Frampton begin his quest to move into the world title range when he challenges the tough European super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez before an expected
8,000 capacity crowd in Belfast’s Odyssey Arena.
Frampton comes into what appears to be the biggest test of his career to date on the back of his impressive demolition of two-time world ruler Steve Molitor last September.
While Molitor was struggling at the weight and was slightly past his peak, Frampton deserves huge credit for his destructive and systematic performance against a man who had competed in 10 world title bouts and had only previously lost twice in 36 contests.
It was an excellent piece of match making from McGuigan and his promoter Matchroom in a bid to ensure that their charge nudges ahead of bitter domestic rival Scott Quigg, who has since retired former world title challenger and European boss Rendall Munroe.
McGuigan’s ability to draw on his big fight experience will undoubtedly ensure Frampton remains confident and not complacent as he prepares to face a champion who has upset a popular Irishman before.
The 27-3 Martinez first came to prominence in 2007 by publicly humiliating Bernard Dunne inside a round before a stunned Dublin audience.
And while I don’t anticipate a repeat of that huge upset, Frampton can expect the Spanish champion to stand centre ring in a bid to prove he’s superior in every department.
Unfortunately for him, Frampton will have the edge in both speed and power, and will eventually wear down the one-dimensional Martinez after an even and intriguing opening.
While a comprehensive points win looks the likeliest outcome, Frampton’s consistent pressure could force a late stoppage.
A defeat for him at this stage is unthinkable if he is to advance into the lofty heights of a class-filled division currently lead by frightening puncher and double world champion Nonito Donaire.
While I believe Frampton will become a world champion within the next 18 months, his best shot appears to be in facing the winner of next weekend’s vacant IBF clash between Alesandro Lopez and Johnathan Romero.
If Frampton really is the real deal that McGuigan suggests, then he should have no fears in facing the other equally gifted global bosses Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Victories against any of the three current belt holders will ultimately ensure that Frampton enters the super league with the likes of Best and McGuigan.
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