It would seem an exaggeration to suggest time is ticking on Carl Frampton’s ring career, but mileage is certainly on the mind of trainer Shane McGuigan.
Ahead of tomorrow’s bout against Mexican Andres Guiterrez at Belfast’s SSE Odyssey Arena, there was mixed talk at yesterday’s final pre-fight press conference.
On one hand, Frampton labelled speculation linking him to world-title fights against ‘star’ names later this year as being “disrespectful” of the challenge presented by Guiterrez; on the other, the Belfast native insisted he is “the boss” when it comes to fighting in his home city.
His trainer, McGuigan — son of Frampton’s mentor, the former world champion Barry — was slightly more succinct when providing his view on tomorrow night’s fight, however.
The coach believes the finishing line is in sight for the 30-year-old two-weight world champion’s ring career and McGuigan views this weekend’s fight as an opportunity to get back to winning ways before a grandstand finish.
Coming off the back of his first pro defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in their WBA world featherweight title fight last January, Frampton’s return sees him contest a non-title bout for the first time since 2014.
A date with Santa Cruz is on the cards for later in 2017, while other potential world-title fights against the likes of Wales’ Lee Selby and American Gary Russell Jr are also in the works.
First, however, the challenge of 37-fight veteran Gutierrez must be overcome.
“We feel Saturday night is the next chapter in Carl’s career and one I’m excited about that because we can see finish line now,” said the younger McGuigan.
“It’s like running a marathon and you can see that 20-mile mark and you’ve got around six miles to go and you’re legs are heavy. We’re going to crack on through, get some big fights and finish strong.”
The trainer admitted: “He wants to be mixing it with the big dogs, whether that’s Lee Selby, Santa Cruz or whoever. We want to match him with big names that sell out in two or three minutes… we want to take him back to America. We need to make sure if he’s got four or five fights left in him that they’re good fights. This is a fight that’s necessary from an emotional stand point, coming off a loss he needs to get his mojo back, win and look impressive doing so.”
Frampton tends to flourish when fighting in his native Jackal’s Den, with this fight marking his first home bout in 17 months at a venue where he is undefeated in six contests that each inspired an electric atmosphere.
The 30-year-old may be a 1/25 money-on favourite with the bookies and he will be expected to see off Gutierrez in style, live on Channel 5, but Frampton played down talk of the fight being a foregone conclusion yesterday.
The visitor is a 24-year-old, who has been priced as a 10/1 underdog despite having suffered only one career loss — a tight point defeat to former world super-flyweight champion Cristian Mijares last year.
Inspiring a strong Belfast support that turned out to cheer him on at yesterday’s event, Frampton confidently stated: “This is my city. I respect him a lot, but this is my city. I’m the boss and I’m going to win.”
However, on a more cautious note, the home favourite pointed out that Gutierrez had notched up five pro wins by the time he made his own pro debut back in 2009.
And a modest Frampton acknowledged that Gutierrez is in a position to scupper any future grand plans.
“I’ve tasted the big nights in Las Vegas, New York, Manchester, and Belfast even and I liked it and I want to get back to the big nights,” said the 30-year-old. “But people are talking about other opponents and I’m not thinking about anyone else other than Andres Gutierrez.
“He’s the only opponent on my mind and if I don’t win this next fight, what do I do? So I’m determined to win this fight and then we’ll think about the future after that.”
Gutierrez looked smaller in stature at yesterday’s pre-fight press conference than he had at the fight launch last month. That was notable as the Mexican failed to make the 126lb featherweight limit ahead of his only loss to Mijares last year.
But the 24-year-old insisted he has no concerns about hitting the scales this afternoon, with Gutierrez insisting: “I’m confident and strong. The weight isn’t stressing me out at all.”
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