Carl Frampton wins ‘sparring’ battle

The pre-fight psychological battle has been won and Carl Frampton will tonight win the much-anticipated war, according to the Belfast native and his team.
Carl Frampton wins ‘sparring’ battle

Five years in the making, Frampton and long-time rival Scott Quigg of Bury will finally clash at the Manchester Arena tonight with the IBF and WBA world super-bantamweight titles on the line.

A vocal crowd was present at the fight venue for yesterday afternoon’s weigh-in, with both successfully making the 122lb super-bantamweight limit.

Both fighters must undergo a 10lb ‘checkweight’ this morning to ensure neither man weighs more than 132lb. It is just one intriguing element of a dramatic series of pre-fight shenanigans with the latest divisive topic to cause rancour between the sides this week being the issue of who would occupy the ‘star’ dressing-room at the arena in preparation for the fight.

Team Frampton backed down on the issue last night, but the dressing-room demand appeared to be a wind-up effort to upset Quigg and trainer Joe Gallagher, as the pair are keen to prepare in the same location as Gallagher’s stable usually do for fights, with Frampton suggesting that the ‘superstitious’ Quigg is spooked by the row.

“We don’t give a toss about the dressing-room,” claimed Frampton’s manager Barry McGuigan yesterday. “We’ve already relented on it.

“We held out because we knew it would offend them because he was so superstitious and so nervous. We knew it would upset him and it did and he showed a weakness and that’s all we needed to know,” he added.

McGuigan, meanwhile, also maintained that Team Frampton have won the most important pre-fight battle in ensuring that only one English official will have a say in the fight.

Pittsburgh referee Ernie Sharif will be the man in the middle for the contest, while two of the three ringside judges are also American with one English official (Dave Parris of Leeds).

Team Frampton did not want a majority of English officials as they were keen to avoid any chance of bias towards Bury native Quigg.

“It was crucial, it was the most important thing on the contract,” said McGuigan. “We just wanted to make it as balanced and fair as possible and make it neutral.”

Frampton and Quigg have regularly been mentioned in the same breath by fight fans and boxing pundits for five-and-a-half years since the former first called for a bout in late 2010.

Since then their rivalry has been littered with trash talk, mainly between the fighters’ backroom teams who have clashed over promotional issues and general bitterness.

It took months of negotiations to make the fight, but this is a genuinely competitive match-up between elite fighters.

The fact that the bout is between two ‘little men’ in terms of boxing’s weight division only adds to the novelty of the occasion and McGuigan yesterday maintained that all the talk will not matter a jot once the fighters walk the walk to the squared circle tonight.

“It doesn’t matter to us, when that bell rings that’s what matters to us,” said McGuigan. “Our man (Frampton) is in incredible condition and when that bell rings he’s going to walk in and take this guy’s (Quigg’s) title.”

Quigg (the WBA belt holder) has described the meeting as his date with destiny, while Frampton (IBF champion) has maintained that it is the most important fight of his career.

“It will change my life, my whole family’s life. This is the start of massive things and after I get rid of Scott Quigg, it’ll take off,” said the 29-year-old Belfast native, who is expected to have the bulk of the support among the 20,000-capacity crowd.

A large contingent of travelling Irish support were present at yesterday’s weigh-in and Frampton predicted that he feel right at home tonight despite being the ‘away’ fighter.

“I’m used to big atmospheres, Quigg isn’t - it might faze him but we’ll see,” said Frampton.

“I’m ready and I’ve been ready for so long. I’ve wanted this fight for a long time now – five years. He says he’s wanted it for that long, but I don’t believe him and we’ll see tomorrow night how ready he is.”

The theory that Quigg’s team – in particular his trainer, Joe Gallagher – may have sought to protect the Bury boxer from a showdown with Frampton until circumstances allowed his fight purse to be maximised is a common one.

The fight has marinated to the point that it is now a Sky Box Office fight, with all the financial advantages that pay-per-view TV provides to the competitors’ purses.

Frampton is the bookies’ favourite and that seems logical considering his amateur pedigree and professional progress.

Quigg (31-0 and a powerful puncher) is also unbeaten, although his record is slightly blemished by two draws, and the 29-year-old usually fights in a fairly one-dimensional pressure style.

In contrast, Frampton has shown that he can box off the back foot as well as a more aggressive style, often displaying fancy footwork and good shot selection when demonstrating his own power.

The pre-fight drama ends tonight when one fighter must take the chance to live up to the hype.

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