Carl Frampton held court with the travelling press corps at the MGM Grand on Tuesday evening sitting alongside mentor and spiritual leader Barry McGuigan. In between the two stood sentry to a golden lion statue, reaching up almost to the world champion’s eyeline.
Later in the night, Team Jackal’s social media feeds posted pictures of the 29-year-old WBA featherweight king doing his own surveying, taking in the surrounds of his private sky loft in the Strip’s most iconic mega-casino.
This is the environment that Frampton, prizefighting’s undisputed man of the past year, now finds himself in, even if he’s blisteringly quick to remind you — it’s a safe bet that he won’t ever need to remind himself — that his boxing life wasn’t always like this. Not nearly.
“We have just been moved into the sky lofts which is pretty nice... It shows you where I have come from, [Staying] in Travelodges, Premier Inns. This is a bit different. It’s surreal,” said Frampton before he and his manager shared observations on their respective hand servants.
“I have a butler called Eric,” quipped McGuigan. “Mine’s called Blake,” responded Frampton.
“I don’t think he knows who I am or what I am doing. He pretends he does but I don’t think so. There are people standing to attention when you walk past. I don’t know, I feel out of place.”
He’s not though. The bells and whistles may not be to his taste but there’s no getting away from the fact that Frampton fits perfectly in place as the headline act here in a big-time Las Vegas fight week.
On Saturday night at the same casino’s Garden Arena, he will resume red-hot hostilities with Leo Santa Cruz in his first defence of the WBA featherweight belt he stripped from the Mexican three-weight world champion last July in Brooklyn.
If the first instalment was Frampton’s night of nights it was also his fight of fights, a blurring, brilliant bout of the year for so many observers. On both sides of the Atlantic the masses are itching for the second go-round.
Champion and challenger — Santa Cruz still smarting from the first defeat of his professional career — both worked out for the public yesterday afternoon at the MGM, Las Vegas’s McCarran Airport having seen a steady stream of travelling fans pour through as the promised invasion began to pick up the pace. Even as things ramp up, Frampton remains a portrait of cool and calm — for now.
“I get hyped up before the fight and this man beside me is the best man in the world at motivating you before a fight,” he said.
“He’ll talk about my family and why I’m doing this and everything else. And he mentioned to me recently, and I never really thought about it like this, but we’re talking about fighting in Belfast next but Barry says ‘we’re all on the same wavelength and we want to do that, but these people who are coming out here, this is a trip that these guys will remember until their dying days. And you’re making memories for these people’.”
Frampton was his cerebral self as he reflected on a range of topics, touching on numerous scenarios for what the near and distant future look like. Windsor Park unification bouts in high summer, moving up to make history at a third weight, the Hall of Fame, nothing is off limits. Most of all, this — the song and the dance of the truly big stage — is all that interests now.
“I’d like to unify the division like I did at super-bantamweight, win another title, and then potentially move up,” said Frampton, 23-0 as a pro on the eve of turning 30 next month. “But for the rest of my career, I want big fights only. That’s no disrespect to any guys. I want to be involved in fights that people will remember.
“I still genuinely believe that we’re just getting the ball rolling now. This is the superfights now. From here on in they’re all going to be huge.”
A fighter whose footwork is truly something to behold, Frampton doesn’t do missteps. Each time he was asked about the future, he would merely inch forward before coming back to the fact that Saturday’s renewal is all that fills his thoughts for now.
Gentlemen of the ring both, the rivals share incredible respect for each other. They are, nonetheless, still fighters. Santa Cruz has lit some flames in recent days with arguments that Brooklyn’s partisan crowd swayed the judges in Frampton’s favour last time. He has also promised a more refined approach in the Garden Arena’s expansive surrounds.
“It’s a huge [ring] and that’s good for me,” said Frampton, easing towards fight night after an intense camp here in the desert. “I have seen he said he’s going to do different things, going to use his length and go backwards — that’s bullshit. He doesn’t know how to go backwards... and if he does it makes it easier for me.”