At the start of 2018, anyone asked who they would pick in a fight between Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton would invariably have sided with the latter.
Frampton was the one who had shown his level on the top stage, whereas Warrington was in his comfort zone, fighting decent opponents – but not known ‘killers’. For him to do so in his hometown of Leeds could only add to the ammunition in favour of Frampton, back in the days before this fight went from being hypothetical to booked.
The full press conference ahead of December’s bout. May contain strong language.
Rivals on the up
Last year, Warrington won via majority decision against Kiko Martinez, in a fight that a few believe he should have won. Despite retaining his WBC featherweight title on that occasion, the vox populi remained without reverence. Thereafter, his perfect record was kept clean by relatively easy opponents. Frampton, on the other hand, had faced a far better version of Martinez in 2014, winning by a clear unanimous decision in a super-bantamweight title bout.
Before May 2018, Martinez had been Warrington’s best opponent, but Frampton had already fought him as well as Hugo Cazares, Chris Avalos, Scott Quigg and Nonito Donaire, all of whom are at least on the same level. His win over Leo Santa Cruz was also a truly exceptional performance, and a third fight (following his loss in the rematch) would be well-received – particularly by Frampton himself.
It was not until Warrington faced Lee Selby at Elland Road that his star truly began to rise. Against all the odds, Warrington produced a memorable performance – as reported in the Telegraph – to beat his opponent on a split decision, although a majority or unanimous one would not have been unreasonable. Warrington used a ramrod jab to keep Selby at bay while roughing him up on the inside. Thus, the more naturally-talented Selby was unable to perform to the best of his ability:
Elland Road erupts as Warrington stuns Selby.
Many didn’t see that level of performance coming from Warrington, and he was able to extend his record to a very impressive 27-0, but his record is still under more of a threat than ever before. One key statistic is that the Leeds fighter is taller than Frampton by two inches, which could enable him to establish that same jab, which would be difficult for Frampton to get around.
Warrington is a very similar height to Santa Cruz, who was able to control Frampton in their rematch at a distance, and Frampton had no answers for him. There are, however, two crucial points to counteract that, and the fact that Santa Cruz is the best featherweight in the world is the first and most meaningful. There is also the justified belief that Frampton will learn from past mistakes, and focus more on using his better centre of gravity to work his way inside.
Frampton has recently experienced the sort of rocky patch that most boxers endure from time to time, but he remains favourite to defeat Warrington, and is (as of 11 October 2018) priced at 4/11 by Betway. Said loss to Santa Cruz – as reported by BBC Sport – combined with the missed fight against Andres Gutierrez, appears to have given Frampton the impetus needed to get back on track. He is also thriving under a new trainer, who appears to have brought out the best in him.
Frampton has enjoyed a recent revival after a rough period.
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Knockout rate chasm a telling factor
Though Warrington’s impressive win against Selby gives Frampton’s camp much food for thought, many people would still say that Frampton is still a level or two better than Warrington. The speed of his punches, together with his movement, could be the key factor. The combinations that Frampton can throw from mid-distance are scary and, if Warrington is caught in the midst of a trade, then he could be in serious trouble.
A key difference could be that Warrington doesn’t have a lot of venom in his punches. 22% of Warrington’s wins have come via knockout, which is utterly dwarfed by Frampton’s own knockout rate of 57%.
If Frampton performs as the world knows he can, then surely there is only going to be one winner on the night. Indeed, the odds in favour of the Jackal may shorten even further in time, and the smart money is on him to walk out of the Manchester Arena in December having put an emphatic end to Warrington’s perfect record.