FIGHT PREVIEW: Carl Frampton v Scott Quigg; Pre-fight talking points

It has been described as a genuine 50/50 fight, potentially the UK’s answer to the Barrera-Morales rivalry, but the question of who is the number one super-bantamweight in the UK and Ireland will finally be answered when Belfast’s Carl Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) takes on Bury’s Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs) in their IBF/WBA unification bout at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night.

The much anticipated clash between these two world champions, has gained momentum in recent weeks with an escalating grudge match between the opposing camps. Much of what has been said remains hyperbole and fans can rest assured that it will all soon be settled within the boxing ring.

Before the fighters resolve matters for themselves let’s take this opportunity to delve into some of the more pressing questions and concerns raised in recent weeks by both sides of the divide to see if they provide any legitimate insights into the outcome of the fight.

Scott Quigg is not a legitimate world champion

Frampton-Quigg is billed as a unification fight but Scott Quigg’s validity as a world champion has been called into question by the Frampton faction. Speaking to Sky Sports Carl Frampton issued his opponent with a stern reminder, “Remember I’m a real world champ, you’re not. I sell tickets and you sell chips.”

Frampton and his team regard Quigg as one of the so called, ‘plastic champions,’ a fighter who has gained a world title by circumstance rather than having defeated the best in the division. In defence of the Bury fighter, it seems only fair to clear up the nature of his WBA world super-bantamweight title before dismissing him on the basis of how he secured that title.

As one of the major sanctioning bodies in the sport the World Boxing Association (WBA) have adopted a bizarre practice in recent years regarding fighters who hold multiple titles. If a fighter unifies a number of belts in one division including the WBA’s title then they become known as the “Super Champion,” and the WBA title for that division becomes vacant allowing it to be contested by other WBA ranked contenders. A fighter may also be promoted to the status of a “Super Champion,” if they defend their title five times. Depending on the circumstances the WBA can simultaneously recognise a “Super World Champion,” a “Regular World Champion,” and an “Interim World Champion,” in any weight division.

In October 2015, Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs) the fighter who many regard as the best super-bantamweight in the division was stripped of his World Boxing Organisation (WBO) world title for in-activity and downgraded by the WBA from his status as “Super World Champion,” to be reclassified as a “champion in recess.” Quigg was then elevated to the status of “Regular,” champion having won the interim championship after he defeated Rendell Munroe and thus set up the unification bout with Frampton.

The entire scenario seems ridiculous for casual fans to the sport and it causes quite a bit of consternation between the professionals as well. In the pre-fight build up to Quigg’s last title defence, his opponent, former world champion Kiko Martinez ridiculed the champion’s legitimacy. Speaking to The Guardian he said, “To truly be the champion you have to fight the best, in and out of your own country. He has a very powerful promoter [Eddie Hearn] who could bring any opponent to the UK but so far it hasn’t happened.”

Quigg had the last word on the matter when he blitzed Martinez in two rounds, however the Spaniard had a point, fans want to see fighters prove themselves against the best in the division, but is it Quigg’s fault that he benefitted from a set of circumstances that led to him receiving a world title? Multiple world champions and the ever increasing plethora of meaningless titles are systemic of the failings of modern boxing. Although they do serve a purpose for all parties concerned in the fight game, promoters and sanctioning bodies earn a healthy living from selling world title fights to the public and the fighters themselves have more opportunities to win world titles.

It should be noted that Rigondeaux the man regarded as the top super-bantamweight in the division and the lineal champion has held a world title since January 2012 and in that time Martinez, Frampton and Quigg have opted for other routes to a world title. Granted difficulties with Rigondeaux’s management and promoter may have prevented negotiations but with the winner of Frampton-Quigg being ordered to fight Rigondeaux, it is only now that fans are seeing the best in the division square off against one another.

World titles have almost lost all meaning for some fans, so that it is why it is important not to place too much emphasis on the questions marks over Scott Quigg’s world title credentials. This fight is about two good fighters proving themselves against each other, that’s what the fans want to see, everything else is just window dressing so let’s put all this nonsense about who’s the real champ to bed once and for all.

Carl Frampton was weight drained and exposed in the Gonzalez Jr fight

In his last fight Carl Frampton made his US debut against Alejandro Gonzalez Jnr in El Paso, Texas. It was meant to be a showcase of the Belfast boxer’s talent in front of an American audience but Frampton suffered two flash knockdowns in the first round and had to maintain his composure to earn a points victory.

In his post-fight interview Frampton admitted that his preparations in respect of making weight for the Gonzalez fight were not ideal.

Speaking to the Irish News this week Frampton indicated that he had misjudged the weight issue. He admitted that during his US training camp he was drinking a lot of water as a result of the sweltering heat and that contributed to his battle with the scales.

Frampton was adamant that he would not make the same mistake with the Quigg fight. He has undertaken a longer training camp to ensure he reduces his weight gradually in time for the weigh in.

Weight may have contributed to the flash knockdowns but did the unrated Gonzalez Jr expose any chinks in Frampton’s armour?

Gonzalez Jr may be a much better fighter than he is given credit for. He sufficiently impressed Dougie Fischer from The Ring magazine, “The kid has boxing pedigree and grew up and around the sport…Gonzalez’s dad (Alejandro Sr. A former WBC featherweight champion), was very confident in his son’s preparations and chances against Frampton.”

After the Frampton fight Gonzalez fought bantamweight Karim Guerfi. It was almost a repeat of the Frampton fight with Gonzalez Jr dropping his opponent in the first round only to be outpointed over ten rounds.

Gonzalez Jr is proving himself to be a tough fighter at championship level. Fans shouldn’t read too much into Frampton’s knockdowns in the Gonzalez Jr fight almost every fighter at some point in their career will meet an opponent who gives them a torrid time.

Scott Quigg knows only two well that there are hard night’s in the boxing ring. The only blemishes on his record are two draws. The first against Rendell Munroe in 2012 was ruled a draw following a clash of heads. Quigg won the rematch by stoppage. The second draw was in the first defence of his WBA title against the Cuban; Yoandris Salinas. An experienced amateur Salinas started strong and took the early rounds. About the mid way point Quigg got into his rhythm, but it only earned him a majority draw. Quigg admitted that if he had pressed earlier in the fight that he would have beaten Salinas.

Both fighters have experienced unsatisfactory performances in the ring. Frampton has a slight edge in the sense that he still managed to grind out a win from his worst night in the ring. Quigg will have learned from the Salinas fight and will be keen to avoid a slow start. The eventual winner of Frampton-Quigg may be the fighter who is the most successful in executing their game plan.

Just who has the better boxing brain, better record and the edge in punching power?

Frampton-Quigg is a rarity in boxing, an even match-up between two fighters who have opposing styles who are both good at what they do. Quigg has been labelled one dimensional in that he rarely deviates from his high guard, defensively sound style and trademark body shots. Some of the boxing press felt Quigg was somewhat aimless in the Martinez fight and that if it wasn’t for his power he would have struggled with Martinez’s style.

In contrast, Frampton is considered the more polished operator with his amateur pedigree, honed in the Holy Family Boxing Club in Belfast and his ring craft and guile as a professional. Frampton’s movement, ring general-ship and his own much vaunted punching power are considered his best assets in the battle with Quigg.

Frampton’s power and intelligence in the ring are evident on the strength of his professional record. In his last seven fights he has stopped the former IBF super-bantamweight world champion Steve Molitor in six rounds; he beat former super-bantamweight world champion Kiko Martinez twice; the first time by ninth round stoppage and the second on a unanimous point’s decision and former WBA super-flyweight world champion Hugo Fidel Cazares by second round stoppage.

Frampton has the ability to box his way to victory against Quigg, but he needs to stick to a game plan because Quigg may just have the edge in power. Five of Quigg’s last seven fights have not gone past three rounds and that includes his two round demolition of Martinez. Quigg’s detractors cannot even say Martinez is finished because he bounced back from the Quigg fight with three consecutive victories and challenged Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA super world featherweight title on the same night as Frampton-Quigg.

If this fight becomes a war, and Quigg manages to land his power punches then the question of who is the classier operator may be redundant. In terms of gauging who is the better puncher the only yardstick is by comparing their performances against the opponents that they share. Both fighters have beaten the tough Ukrainian journeyman Yuriy Voronin. Quigg stopped him in six rounds in 2009 and Frampton stopped him in three rounds in 2010.

On the balance of results Frampton has arguably fought stiffer opposition but Quigg has had the more impressive stoppages of late. Either fighter has a legitimate claim to being the harder puncher but the edge has to go to Quigg based on his performance against Martinez. It only takes one punch to spell destruction in the ring.

It is apparent that Frampton-Quigg is a finely poised affair. It is almost impossible to separate these two champions. Whatever the outcome, fans should rejoice in the fact that boxing continues its resurgence in the UK and Ireland. With the UK boasting world champions in double figures, win lose or draw there are exciting fights out there for both Frampton and Quigg however they fare. The winner will have to face Rigondeaux and for the loser a potential crack at the winner of Santa Cruz-Martinez could be realistic or a domestic match-up against one of the glut of emerging super-bantamweights.

Saturday night should serve up some genuine thrills and excitement, with a quality undercard in support. For genuine boxing fans this will be one show they do not want to miss.

Frampton-Quigg is live on Sky Box Office Channel 491 from 6pm on Saturday the 27th February.

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