Unbeaten Frampton ready for Barclays boxing debut
Irish Star Eager to Take Santa Cruz’s Belt in Downtown Brawl
Carl “The Jackal” Frampton believes he’s the next big thing.
But first he’ll have to prove it within the squared circle of Downtown Brooklyn’s home for boxing.
Frampton, undefeated in 22 pro bouts, including 14 victories via knockout, will bring some serious Irish swagger into the ring Saturday night when he clashes with fellow unbeaten Leo “The Earthquake” Santa Cruz (32-0-1) for the featherweight world championship in the headline bout at Barclays Center.
The 29-year-old Frampton, who is trained by Irish boxing legend and Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan, has flown under the radar stateside despite carving up whomever he faced in the bantamweight (122-pound) division over the past five years.
But Saturday’s showdown on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, which will be nationally televised on SHOWTIME, sets up as his breakthrough bout against the world’s top featherweight (126 pounds).
Santa Cruz, who is of Mexican descent and fights out of Los Angeles, also once dominated the bantamweight division before moving up in pounds, and class.
A victory over a fighter who has been co-featured on several big Vegas cards with a pro-Irish crowd in full-throated support could launch Frampton into the national spotlight.
“It’s getting big this week. It’s real. I’m completely up for it,” Frampton said during Wednesday’s workout at Church Street Gym in Manhattan. “I’m excited to bring a big crowd over here and I’m going to do everything I can to have my hand raised.
“This is a dream of mine,” he added. “To come to America and box is something I’ve always wanted to do. Barclays Center is taking over as the best venue in New York and I’m going to look to put on a world-class performance. It will take my best to get this victory.
McGuigan, who once owned the featherweight crown himself during a career that saw him pile up 32 wins, including 28 via knockout, feels the time is right for Frampton-mania to invade Brooklyn.
“Being here is great,” he said. “I never got a chance to fight here in New York. I’ve always known that Frampton would be a sensation over here. We’ve always wanted to be here on the east coast. We’ve worked very hard with the Irish community to get his name out there. It’s been fantastic.”
And Frampton does not want to let his veteran trainer down in what is undoubtedly the biggest bout of his career.
“Obviously I have enough motivation on my own, but it would be nice to bring back the title that Barry once owned,” he intimated. “It feels a bit like destiny for me. It’s my turn to win it back for him. I’m doing this for my whole team. I’m doing this for my family and I’m doing this for my entire country.”
While Frampton tries to up his profile in America, Santa Cruz is simply looking to continue adding to a potential Hall of Fame resume of his own.
The 27-year-old has already grabbed world titles in three weight divisions, and has a strong following among Mexican-Americans, who figure to engage in plenty of back and forth with their Irish-American rivals come the opening bell Saturday night.
“I think that this is the perfect time for this fight,” noted Santa Cruz, who will have his father, Jose, battling his way through a fight of his own with cancer, working his corner. “We’re both undefeated and in the prime of our careers. It’s an easy fight to make and a really big fight that the fans will love.”
“I’m really happy to be here. I’ve been at all of Leo’s fights and it’s great to be at this one,” added Jose Santa Cruz. “This is just another reason to be happy. I’m so thrilled for Leo that he has this opportunity and to be here for him.
“I know Frampton is undefeated, but Leo comes very prepared. He has worked hard in camp, like he always does. Hopefully both fighters give the fans a good fight on fight night.”
Not to be forgotten, of course, is Saturday night’s mythical “Brooklyn World Championship” bout between long-time Barclays Center favorite Paulie Malignaggi and fellow borough native Gabriel Bracero.
Malignaggi, who hails from Bensonhurst and could be making his ring farewell at the age of 35, is looking up to lacing them up on his home turf for the fifth time since helping to open the arena back in 2012.
“I hope the crowd enjoys this fight. I really want to put on a show for the local fans and represent for my home,” said Malignaggi, who has already emerged as one of the best ringside analysts in the sport via his gig on SHOWTIME.
“It would normally be strange to fight a guy I know so well,” he added. “But I know he’s a competitor. I’ve known his mentality since the amateurs. He’s coming to win. Once the bell rings, this guy isn’t taking any prisoners. I trained with that same mentality. I know we’re both competitors. Who wants the bragging rights on Saturday night?”
Tickets for the live event, which is presented by Premier Boxing Champions and promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Cyclone Promotions, start at $38 and can be purchased online by visiting www.ticketmaster.com, www.barclayscenter.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
Tickets are also available at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. Group discounts are available by calling 844-BKLYN-GP.
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