Unbeaten Carl Frampton defends his IBF InterContinental super bantamweight title against world rated Frenchman Jeremy Parodi, in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Saturday.
The fight doubles as a final eliminator for the IBF strap which is currently in the custody of Frampton victim ‘Kiko’ Martinez of Spain. With The Holy Grail in sight, Frampton knows he can afford no slip ups.
Last weekend, boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with him.
Belfast’s a mean hard city and you were raised there in troubled times. Were you a fiery kid? To what extent did your upbringing harden your character to become prizefighter?
It possibly hardened me. Boxing’s a working class sport and I was brought up in Tiger’s Bay, a very working class area. It was on the (nationalist/loyalist) interface and I was surrounded by trouble as a wee boy.
Like any kid, I had a few fights on the school yard or street corner to settle disputes when I got frustrated but I was never your brash type. I was actually quite shy, usually shied away. I was easily intimidated as a kid.
Being small, I’d have been easily picked on. However, getting into the boxing from the age of seven taught me to defend myself early in a tough area.
There are lots of national junior champions etc, but at what age did you realise that you had a talent beyond the norm, that you were exceptional as opposed to just very good?
Though I was on the All-Ireland High Performance (amateur) squad I was never the recognised ‘Top Boy’. Several others such as Andy Lee, Kenneth Egan, Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin and John Joe Joyce had styles better suited to excelling in the amateur code.
However, from the age of ten, I always knew that I wanted to be a pro and from the age of 15 or 16, I was aware that I had attributes that were better equipped to the pro game; a good chin, a big heart and a heavy punch. The skills that I developed in the amateurs helped me a lot.
You seem exceptionally heavy handed, punching several divisions above your fighting weight. When did that power start to develop? At what age did you start knocking opponents over, knocking them out, as opposed to just overwhelming them?
Even as a young kid, I punched far harder than most my own age. But I think it was around the age of 16 that sparring partners started to inform me that I was hurting them, that my shots carried real power.
And I feel that power is developing more and more, all the time. Right now, I routinely spar welterweights. Dean Byrne has sparred both myself and (Cuba’s interim WBA lightweight champion) Yuriorkis Gamboa and he’s adamant that I hit the harder of the two.
To what do you attribute your power? Has it ever frightened you?
You can always increase your strength and technique but I think that real concussive power is largely a God given thing that comes from a combination of timing, speed and strength.
Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation whereby I’ve had an opponent ‘twitching’, or out for five minutes or more. At the end of the day, it’s only a sport.
You were a top drawer amateur, winning national junior and senior titles and representing Ireland on several occasions. Clearly there’s more to your arsenal than just punching power. What other attributes are hidden in your locker that fight fans might not be familiar with yet?
I think if you were to watch my most recent fights you’d see I can box off the back foot. I certainly don’t believe that I was given anywhere near enough credit for my win over Raul Hirales, the unbeaten Mexican who I outpointed over twelve to win the IBF InterContinental belt in May of last year.
Hirales came back with a fantastic win himself over (touted 20-1 Mexican) Oscar Gonzalez, shortly after. I boxed the whole of that fight off the back foot. I also showed I can adapt and really mix things up when I stopped ‘Kiko’ Martinez last time out.
Though I’m quite short and squat for a super-bantam, I always preferred opponents to come onto me when I was boxing international as an amateur. Barry and Shane (McGuigan, his father-son/manager trainer team) are anxious that I don’t lose my amateur ways, just improve and refine them.
In your last contest back in February, you schooled, then flattened Martinez in round nine to capture the European title.
The Spaniard subsequently captured the IBF title by mowing down Columbia’s Jhonatan Romero in six over in Atlantic City in August. Did that surprise you?
It didn’t surprise me, no. ‘Kiko’ is a very good fighter and gave a great performance. He’s improved significantly since linking up with the team of (WBC middleweight king) Sergio Martinez. He’s being looked after better so is in a better place mentally.
He was at his best against me yet I thoroughly outboxed him before knocking him out which shows you the level I’m at. And since then, I’ve improved too. I’ve effectively had a 16 week camp since the summer and, in that time, I’ve become a far better fighter up close, slipping and blocking shots ‘in the pocket’. I’ve been hurting some much bigger guys in sparring.
I’m sure you’re fed up with being asked questions about a possible fight with Scott Quigg, Bury’s unbeaten WBA champion. Is it the situation or Quigg himself that you find irritating?
No, it’s definitely the situation and it’s becoming more irritating of late. Scott seems a nice guy who shows me respect. He’s also a real gym rat, very dedicated and determined to improving himself. That’s something that you have to admire.
But I just think I’m a better fighter than him and I desperately want to fight him to prove it. We recently made his people an offer of £200,000 which we believe is roughly eight times more than they’ve been paid before.
But they’ve been hiding behind excuses; that they wanted to win a world title first.If they’re so confident that they’ll beat me, why not take the huge payday which would’ve been far more than they received for challenging for a world title.
Boxing is a very tough game and us fighters have very short careers. First and foremost, it’s a business. I want to be involved in fights that pay the most. The ball is firmly in their court. If it doesn’t happen, shame on them!
What was your assessment of Quigg’s performance in his drawn WBA title defence against Cuba’s Yoandris Salinas?
Boring. I didn’t think it was a great performance from either of them. Quigg really struggled to deal with the Cuban’s jab. Salinas was pretty mediocre yet he seemed to completely boss Quigg for the first seven rounds. He had the potential and tools to win every round but mysteriously allowed Quigg back into the fight.
I think we’ve now discovered Quigg’s level. I’ve always been confident that I’m the best super-bantam in Europe. I strongly believe that I’m a better allround fighter than Scott Quigg.
Saturday’s opponent Jeremy Parodi of France is just 26 and is ranked fourth with the IBF so is sure to be fuelled with ambition himself. His sole defeat in 37 came on a majority decision to the very decent Arsen Martirosyan, who gave Rendall Munroe fits in a European challenge over here.
What else have you seen or found out Parodi?
I’ve seen very little, one fight from about three or four years ago, so I’m going in a bit blind.
In that fight, he was pretty aggressive and came to fight. Though his record suggests that he’s not a puncher, he seems to like a trade off which should suit me. I’ll not be underestimating him, mind. Anyone can cause damage with those little gloves on.
Parodi has never fought outside France as a pro, yet the fight is at the frighteningly atmospheric Odyssey Arena, a real bear pit. How big a part could home advantage play?
Huge. I believe they’ve set the Odyssey up for 8,200 - the biggest ever capacity for boxing - and I genuinely believe it’s the most atmospheric venue in Europe. Others are bigger but none is noisier. Everyone knows that the Irish like a drink and a sing so the place will go ballistic. It looks great on TV but you have to be amongst it, to really savour exactly how mad it is.
I’ve finished all the hard training so now its just a case of making weight and conserving energy. I understand that the venue is already completely sold out but I’ll be coming into town a week early to try to help build the fight with the media.
I’ve seen how fighting at The King’s Hall gave Barry (McGuigan, his manager) a huge advantage for some of the big fights during his career. Hopefully, The Odyssey can develop into something similar for me.
What do you hope to get out of the fight, your debut on BoxNation?
I made several good friends at Sky so it’ll be different having new faces about me in the changing rooms but I trust the decisions of my team completely. Hopefully I can put on a real show.
I know that I’m going to win but Parodi has never been stopped so it’d be nice to make a statement and get rid of him before the end. I’d like to kayo him, provide all the fans and viewers with a powerful, explosive performance.
I just want to keep on improving, as I feel I have been during my most recent few fights.
Finally, in addition to your EBU and IBF InterContinental belts, you’re presently ranked in the top 15 with all four major sanctioning bodies. Which world champion are you specifically targeting?
Whatever comes up, really. I’ve no real preference. We’ve some huge backers who we hope will bring my world title challenge here to Belfast, whoever it’s against.
As I hold the IBF InterContinental belt, I guess Martinez is the most likely champion I’ll face. Kiko makes a mandatory defence of his IBF title against Jeffrey Mathebula in Alicante, Spain on 21st December and I expect the winner of myself and Parodi to be installed as mandatory after that.
Leo Santa Cruz, the WBC champion is getting rave reviews over in America. He’s very good but I believe he’d really suit my style.
I’d love the Quigg fight simply to prove a few doubters wrong but ‘Kiko’s’ the man with the legitimate world title. Everybody knows that (Cuba’s Guillermo) Rigondeaux, not Scott Quigg, is the real WBA champion.
I believe Rigondeaux is the number one in our division. Ideally, I’d like to win one of the other world titles prior to facing him.
I said quite recently that I’m 12-18 months away from a fight with Rigondeaux. However, the improvements that I’m making in the gym this camp suggest I might now be closer than that. I’d enter as a massive underdog but I don’t fear anyone.
Watch the whole ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ bill, live and exclusive on BoxNation, from 7pm tomorrow evening on Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546. Join at www.boxnation.com