A capacity crowd of near to 9,000 fight fans will pile into the Odyssey Arena on the banks of the river Lagan in Belfast on February 28th to watch IBF superbantamweight champion Carl Frampton, defend his world title belt against American challenger Chris Avalos.
Nearly thirty years after Barry McGuigan’s WBA featherweight title fight against Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road was broadcast to 18 million viewers, McGuigan himself as head of CWM Cyclone Promotions is bringing live boxing back to British mainstream terrestrial TV with ITV sport. He has invested big money and even bigger belief in his protege Carl Frampton and the fighter from the Tiger’s bay area of Belfast has delivered in style so far. He has already won the hearts of his home nation who voted him sports personality of the year alongside golfer Rory McIlroy for 2014.
Belfast is a fighting city. The atmosphere is distinctly unique. It will be partisan, vociferous and stoked. Mike Criscio, Avalos’ manager, has been vocal in the weeks building up to the fight stating that his man won’t be affected by the crowd and has fought in front of hostile crowds before in the USA. Perhaps he doesn’t fully appreciate the scale of the task that lies ahead for his fighter. Avalos may well cope but certainly the man from the Durango gym in Lancaster, California will never have experienced the intensity of Belfast. The British fight fans are more often than not far, far more vocal and intense than fans in the US.
Avalos is the IBF’s mandatory challenger and has enough power at his disposal to be a threat though. ‘The hitman’ has won his last three bouts by TKO and best odds of 6/1 do represent some good value. For sure, he is the underdog but his odds look a touch long considering the fact that he has knockout power. However, the only top fighter that Avalos has faced so far has been Jhonatan Romero, a fight which he controversially lost via split decision despite knocking down Romero in the 1st round. He is a pressure boxer who likes to get on the front foot and throw combinations and has shown some handy work on the inside in previous fights. It could well develop into a really good contest.
Frampton is a heavy 1/9 favourite across the bookmakers with a best outright price of 7/1 available with Ladbrokes. His odds are probably a bit short; after all Avalos is considered a game contender and a one sided walkover might not go down great with the TV viewers. Having said that, he possesses dynamite power and at 27 years old, looks to be approaching the peak of his powers. He looks very big and strong at the weight and a 14 week training camp under the watchful eye of trainer Shane McGuigan will likely ensure that no stone is left unturned particularly on the physical conditioning front.
Providing he passes this test which he is expected to do with flying colours he can look forward to attempting to unify the 122lb division with megafights against the unbeaten WBA champion Scott Quigg and masterful Cuban operator Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux is largely considered the number one fighter in the division and has mostly looked infallible since turning professional and winning the world title in just nine fights. However in his last fight against Hisashi Amagasa he was dropped twice in the 7th round before fighting baack to retire his opponent in the 11th. He is now starting to look something close to beatable particularly for a power puncher like Frampton.
An Avalos win would completely derail the Frampton freight train. He isn’t the super slick skilled tpye like Rigondeaux and therefore it’s hard to see him out pointing the Northern Irishman. An Avalos win over the distance would have to be a dominant ,clear cut one. He won’t win a tight decision in Belfast. He realistically needs a stoppage to win. However, in his stronghold of Belfast, Frampton is a huge force to be reckoned with and his home city will be buzzing in anticipation for another night of the Jackal. He will be looking to win in style. A knockout victory would send a strong statement out but wouldn’t surprise anyone; he has been in great form of late.