FROM STEVE BRENNER IN NEW YORK
History beckons for Carl Frampton.
If he wins his first bout at featherweight in New York tonight, having moved up from super-bantamweight, he will become the first Northern Irishman to become a two-weight world champion.
A triumph would undoubtedly rank as the finest of his career and provide another marquee evening for British boxing, yet when he faces Léo Santa Cruz, the unbeaten WBA champion, there will be more on his mind than boxing immortality.
Frampton is playing a longer game. In a sport that leaves many protagonists utterly broken once the final bell sounds, “The Jackal” knows the glare of the spotlight will not shine forever.
He wants financial security for his two young children and to thank his wife, Christine, for her unwavering support by allowing her finally to develop a career of her own.
“To be honest, I don’t know if I want to keep going much past 32 or 33,” said Frampton, 29, whose manager Barry McGuigan retired at 28.
“I want big fights, make some dough, win some titles and have some security for my kids and my wife. My wife wants to go back to work, she’s a very clever girl. She did a degree in criminology and justice but hasn’t been able to develop that because she allowed me to concentrate on the boxing while she looks after the kids. So I feel bad because she put a lot of hard work in to get her degree and hasn’t been able to follow it up. If she wants to go to work, I am happy to be a house husband.”
In Santa Cruz, Frampton has picked a fearsome proposition for his first bout at 126lb. The Mexican, a three-division champion making the second defence of his title, stands two inches taller and possesses a greater reach than his opponent while throwing punches with impressive alacrity.
With both fighters nestled nicely in the lucrative stable of Al Haymon, the boxing mogul, the financial rewards on offer give an insight into the calculated risks both are taking.
Santa Cruz, whose father José has recently had cancer diagnosed, would not leave his base on the west coast for nothing. This is the first time he has fought in New York City. Similarly Frampton, who has relinquished his super-bantamweight WBA and IBF belts, would not have stepped into this truly 50-50 affair without being royally rewarded.
The Ulsterman will earn more than £1 million, his biggest pay-day.In his previous foray here last year, Frampton recovered from two early knockdowns in El Paso before outlasting Alejandro González on a difficult night that clouded judgment of his talents on this side of the Atlantic.
“People are kidding themselves if they say it’s not about money,” Frampton said. “This is a business, I am 29, approaching the end of my career. You chase the titles but you also chase the dough.”
Keen to tap into the fervent Irish community in New York, McGuigan has been masterminding a PR push to ensure that Brooklyn resembles Belfast tonight, while a bar in Manhattan has been reserved for what Frampton hopes will be a celebration party tomorrow with his 1,200 followers who have made the journey across the Atlantic.
Santa Cruz, though, is confident he can win. “I respect him but want to make it a war,” he said.
Frampton’s steely confidence, however, is infectious. “Big fights define careers,” he said. “ I’m going to win. And people will talk about it for a long time.”