'Jackal' to bite in Belfast
Our Derek Bilton reckons Carl Frampton can win the European super-bantamweight title in his native Belfast on Saturday.
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Carl Frampton will be hoping it's a case of third time lucky this weekend against Kiko Martinez.
Twice in the past 18 months 'The Jackal' has been poised to box Martinez for the European super-bantamweight crown only to see the Spaniard pull out.
Both men seem fit and up for the job this weekend, however, with Martinez preparing for this one Stateside with his new manager Sergio Martinez (no relation), the middleweight kingpin from Argentina.
Kiko is just 26 but he has a wealth of experience and already has a bit of previous when it comes to upsetting young Irish starlets.
In 2007 he travelled to Dublin and smashed up the heavily-fancied Bernard Dunne inside a round. That was a shock and he is confident he will repeat the trick on Saturday (Martinez again goes off as an outsider with the oddsmen).
The Alicante banger has put together a decent 27-3 (19) record since turning over as a raw 18-year-old in 2004.
The men to beat him are Rendall Munroe (twice) and Takalani Ndlovu, who would go on to win the IBF world title at super-bantam.
Martinez is a squat, come-forward fighter who loves a rumble and while he feels his power will be too much for Frampton, the Belfast native is convinced he'll have too much variety for his well-travelled opponent.
Frampton is just 25 and has put together a faultless 15-0 (10) record thus far.
A student of the game, he first walked into the Midland ABC on his own housing estate as a seven-year-old boy and his progress since then has been noteworthy.
Frampton is being guided by Barry McGuigan, another little Irishman who made a big impact on the world stage.
McGuigan, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and calls it as he sees it when it comes to the hurt business, has been convinced for some time that Frampton is the real deal, a fighter destined to follow in his footsteps and achieve glory on the world stage.
There is much debate on British shores as to who is the best prospect out of Frampton and Scott Quigg, a ferocious and quite brilliant little fighter out of Bury who was last seen dusting off the aforementioned Munroe with body shots last year and sending 'The Boxing Binman' into retirement.
Quigg is the British (and now WBA interim) champion and naturally feels he is better than 'The Jackal'.
Carl himself is irritated by this and the hope is that both men can settle the argument in the square ring at some point later this year.
Frampton would have extra bargaining power in any negotiations with Quigg if he can annex the European title, a belt held by the likes of Spencer Oliver, Michael Brodie, Esham Pickering and Michael Hunter in recent years.
And the bookies fancy him to get the job done on Saturday, with Frampton a warm 1/4 shot to land the spoils.
The general consensus is that Frampton will wear his man down and, roared on by a partisan home crowd, force a late stoppage in the final third of the fight.
However I am hearing Martinez is in the shape of his life for this and it is worth remembering he has never been stopped amateur or pro.
When Munroe beat him the Leicester man, a 6/1 outsider, boxed at range and negated the power shots of the Iberian who became frustrated as that fight wore on.
Rendall went on the attack more in their return but was again careful not to stand in front of Martinez, who won't need a second invitation if he is invited to land one flush on Frampton's chin in Belfast.
For me Frampton wins this because he has more tools in his fistic toolbox. He has a nice variety and a great engine.
The home fans will be willing him to go for broke but McGuigan will have briefed him about Martinez and will surely want him to box with caution early on and get himself a lead on the cards.
If he can do that he will surely discourage Kiko and I fancy him to win handily on points in the end.