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Wednesday 23 January 2019

CARL haS TITANIC BATTLE

Frampton aims to pass Martinez test and claim IBF world title

On Monday last, Carl Frampton's three-year old daughter Carla had her first day at "big school."

On Saturday, the proud dad will take a qualification examination of his own in a specially built 16,000 seater arena on the slipway of Belfast's historic Titanic dockyards.

If he passes the test, Carla's father will have graduated to boxing's "big school." He'll be IBF World super bantamweight champion and in a position to command major payday high-profile superstar fights.

Since he signed Frampton in 2009, manager Barry McGuigan has been saying his protege will be world champion. On Saturday night, Frampton gets a chance to prove McGuigan's predictions correct.

Standing in his way will be the formidable frame of a re-energised Kiko Martinez, the fighter who holds the IBF title that Frampton craves.

Some will remember Martinez as the unruly Spaniard who once cut down Bernard Dunne in 86 seconds of hellish boxing fury. That was seven years ago. Martinez was 21.

Now 28, he's just a year older than Frampton but has more miles on his boxing clock.

The Belfast boxer is unbeaten in 18 bouts. He's knocked-out 13 of his opponents, including Kiko Martinez who suffered the indignity of the only stoppage of his 31 fight career in front of a Belfast crowd last year.

But those statistics only tell part of the story.

Since Frampton and his followers celebrated stripping Martinez of his European title at the Odyssey that night, the man from Alicante has put himself through a sensational finishing school of hard knocks.

First, he went to Argentina and claimed the WBC Latino belt with a knock-out. Next he travelled to New Jersey and knocked-out the reigning IBF World champion Jhonatan Romero. Then he demolished two experienced challengers, one in Spain and the other in Japan.

Now, the man who's knocked-out 23 of his 35 opponents is determined to make up for the only KO blemish on his record by defeating Frampton in front of a worldwide television audience.

Both men have prepared for what's being billed as the Titanic Showdown. Both men are confident. But there can only be one winner.

No one in Frampton's camp is saying it's going to be easy. Least of all The Jackal himself.

"People think I'm just going to win this fight because I've beaten him before," says Frampton. "There's huge expectation. They think it's just a walk in the park. But I'm expecting a very tough fight. If you watch the last fight again, he was relentless. People said that if I outboxed him he'd slow down after five rounds. He didn't. He was still coming forward until I stopped him in the ninth."

Like army generals, Frampton and his team have been analysing and assessing the strengths and possible weaknesses of the world champion.

"I know what to expect," he says. "It's going to be a tough fight. He's predictable but he's good at what he does. I expect him to come out firing and try to knock me out. He's got a lot of pride. He desperately wants to win. But, the best me against the best him? I'm always going to win."

Before Barry McGuigan won his WBA world title, defeating Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road football stadium, his manager had an outdoor training ring built to help Barry get the feel of fighting in the outdoors.

Has Carl been sparring outdoors? "The gym is in an old loading bay and it has a massive shutter on it," he explains. "We've had it open, replicating being outside. But whatever the weather brings it's going to be the same for me and him. And I'm more used to Belfast weather than he is."

Having McGuigan as a mentor has helped Frampton develop into a formidable winning machine.

"He's backed me from the start," says Carl. "Shane (Barry's son) trains me but Barry's there most days in the gym. He always gives advice and it's always great advice. He's passed on words of wisdom."

The preparation is done. The build-up to the big night is under way. Frampton is unfazed as the buzz and the pressure builds. When he says it will be a tough fight, he isn't being coy. When the pair met last year, Frampton experienced how dangerous an opponent Martinez can be. His explosive punching gave Frampton a perforated eardrum.

"If you look at my face that night," he says. "It was well marked up. I made a lot of mistakes that night but I won. I'll rectify those mistakes this time. He's hard to hit clean. But I don't fear him. I believe I'm going to become world champion."

p The fight will be screened live on BoxNation

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