CARL FRAMPTON has had to demonstrate patience in his quest to become a three-weight world titlist. A previous title-holder at super-bantamweight (WBA/IBF) and featherweight (WBA), Frampton was expected to challenge reigning champion Jamel Herring for the WBO super-featherweight crown last summer. However, the coronavirus pandemic rendered this unfeasible.

After plans to stage the contest in late 2020 also came to nought, a date of February 27 in London was at last finalised. Yet a hand injury suffered by Frampton during training saw the bout pushed back to this Saturday (April 3), in the new location of the UAE. The Rotunda at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai will host the 34-year-old’s hat-trick attempt, with Channel 5 (UK) and ESPN+ (US) televising.

“I’m delighted to finally get this fight nailed down – it’s definitely been a roller coaster to get here,” Frampton said. “I have the utmost respect for Jamel as a fighter and as a man, but there’s nobody stopping me from becoming a three-weight world champion and potentially having one foot in the Hall of Fame.

“This is my chance to make history. Jamel is a tough opponent, but I’ve put the work in. I have a fire lit inside me and I’m confident that this legacy fight will go in my favour. This fight is going to be one that fans will remember. I’ll be leaving it all in the ring.”

Southpaw Herring, 35, will be hoping to complete a hat-trick of his own this weekend – a third successful defence of his WBO belt, which he won in May 2019 by upsetting Masayuki Ito via unanimous verdict.

“The postponements have been frustrating, but I’m really excited that the fight is finally happening,” Herring stated. “I still have the same hunger that I had when this fight was first presented to me. It’ll be an honour to share the ring with a true warrior and class act such as Frampton. It may be the biggest fight of my career to date, but I’ll be more than ready for the task ahead.

“There’s a lot on the line. I know he’s aiming to make history, but he’ll have to wait for another day because I plan on returning home with my title in hand. I’ve been training very hard for this fight – I went back to what got me to my world title from sparring the likes of Terence Crawford and other top talent across America.

“I can’t wait to put on a great show. I’m definitely looking forward to making a statement in this exciting division. I know a victory will lead to bigger and better things down the road, but I have to take care of Frampton first and I’m totally focused on defending my title.”

An ex-US Marine and captain of the American boxing team at the 2012 Olympic Games, Herring was victorious in his opening 15 professional outings, before running into the far more experienced Denis Shafikov in July 2016. Herring dug in and showed commendable courage, but Shafikov was the better man on the night, which he underlined by scoring an early knockdown and going on to force a stoppage in round 10.
Thirteen months later, Herring suffered his second defeat when the unproven Ladarius Miller unanimously outpointed him. With Miller and Shafikov both being southpaws, this could suggest that Herring is not as comfortable taking on fellow left-handers than he is opposing orthodox fighters.

In the wake of the Miller reverse, Herring decided to drop down in weight. Having previously been operating at lightweight, the Coram, New York native switched to the super-featherweight division – a change that would turn out to be a masterstroke.

Big and strong at 130lbs, Herring has thrived as a super-feather, where he has cemented himself as one of the best in his weight class. After his world title-winning performance against Ito, Herring took Lamont Roach’s ‘0’ in his first defence, with a unanimous decision going his way in November 2019.

Up next for Herring was a second defence of his strap. Following two positive COVID-19 tests, the Cincinnati-based champ saw his clash with Jonathan Oquendo postponed twice. When the match did take place in September last year, Herring dominated but had to settle for an unsatisfying disqualification win, with the unruly Oquendo being thrown out in the eighth for repeated use of the head.

While the 22-2 (10) Herring has competed in three world title bouts so far, the seasoned Frampton has contested world honours on seven occasions. A silver medallist at the EU Championships in 2007, Frampton started out in the pros as a super-bantamweight. After collecting Commonwealth and European belts, the Belfast boxer became the IBF king in September 2014 by dethroning old foe Kiko Martinez, whom he had stopped in nine rounds a year-and-a-half beforehand. The rematch saw Frampton succeed unanimously on the scorecards.

Two triumphant defences followed for the Northern Irishman, which led him into a high-profile unification contest with Scott Quigg in February 2016. Frampton broke Quigg’s jaw en route to earning a split verdict victory over the formerly undefeated WBA boss.

Frampton then moved up to featherweight and on to a tremendous two-fight feud with Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA championship. Frampton ruined his rival’s unbeaten record with a majority points success in July 2016, before Santa Cruz did the exact same thing to the Ulsterman in their January 2017 sequel.

Frampton responded to the Santa Cruz setback by notching three straight wins, with the most notable of these being a unanimous decision over the esteemed Nonito Donaire in April 2018. Many people anticipated that Frampton would then go on to unseat Josh Warrington from the IBF throne in December 2018, yet the defending titlist had other ideas. Maintaining his unblemished ledger, Warrington came out on top with a unanimous vote.

The loss to Warrington prompted Frampton to step up to super-featherweight, where he unanimously outscored the undefeated but untested Tyler McCreary in November 2019. Keeping active with a run-out at lightweight in August last year, Frampton dispatched late substitute Darren Traynor in the seventh round.

Largely untried at 130lbs, it will be interesting to see how the 5ft 5in Frampton deals with his significant disadvantages in height, reach and natural size against the 5ft 10in Herring. The challenger will no doubt derive some confidence from the fact that Shafikov, who gave Herring such a torrid time, also stands at only 5ft 5ins. Furthermore, whereas Herring has never fought outside of the US as a pro, Frampton has travelled more in the paid ranks, which could be of benefit to Carl, with the bout being held in the Middle East.

Currently positioned at No. 3 in the WBO super-feather ratings, the 28-2 (16) Frampton is undoubtedly the highest-calibre opponent that Herring will have faced. An intelligent and versatile operator, the quick-fisted Frampton is a quality punch-picker who connects with classy counters, though he can be decked.

Tough, game and ripped, Herring utilises effective lateral movement in conjunction with a long jab, while his physical strength means that he can handle himself up close. Spearing strikes to the midsection and uppercuts on the inside are two of his most productive weapons.

This one looks set to be competitive and keenly battled, but ultimately Frampton’s accurate jab, hurtful body shots and sharp combinations can prevail over Herring’s athleticism and impressive resolve. The pick is for Frampton to gain a points victory and accomplish his goal of becoming a three-weight world champion.

Carl Frampton

In an appealing super-lightweight 10-rounder on the undercard, Frampton’s countryman, Tyrone McKenna, 21-2-1 (6), takes on unbeaten Kazakh Zhankosh Turarov, 24-0 (17).

Fighting out of Pahokee in Florida, the hard-hitting Turarov has only been past the fifth round on three occasions, while all eight of McKenna’s 10-rounders have gone the distance. Since Turarov last saw action in July 2019 against the outgunned Mauro Godoy (w rsf 3), McKenna has completed 30 rounds. Most recently six months ago, the Belfast portsider dropped a majority verdict to the heavy-handed Ohara Davies in the final of The Golden Contract tournament.

McKenna has been in with the superior opposition, which gives him an edge over Turarov. Tall and rangy, the Northern Irishman likes to move and counter by boxing off the back foot with his lengthy jab. He will have to withstand some solid body blows, but McKenna can impress the judges enough to triumph on the cards.

Making his return after more than two years out of the ring is vastly decorated Filipino veteran Donnie Nietes, 42-1-5 (23). A former world ruler at strawweight (WBO), light-flyweight (WBO), flyweight (IBF) and super-flyweight (WBO), the Bacolod City resident has been a pro for 18 years, with his one and only defeat coming way back in September 2004.

Opposing Nietes over 10 rounds at super-flyweight is Colombia’s Pablo Carrillo, 25-7-1 (16). The diminutive Barranquilla man has won his last two fights but has been found wanting whenever he has met world-level adversaries in the past. Even at nearly 39 years old, expect Nietes to box his way to a routine, rust-shedding decision win.

The third 10-rounder on the bill pits a pair of unbeatens against one another, as Kazakhstan’s Tursynbay Kulakhmet, 2-0 (1), collides with Venezuela’s Heber Rondon, 20-0 (13), in an all-southpaw battle.

Following a fruitful amateur career, Kulakhmet made his pro debut in August last year – a fourth-round retirement victory over Sagadat Rakhmankul, who had also previously enjoyed a successful stint in the unpaid code. The Kyzylorda super-welterweight was back out again in November against Macaulay McGowan, whom he unanimously outscored to inflict a first loss on the gritty Mancunian.

Although Rondon boasts eye-catching statistics, a closer look at his CV reveals only one opponent with a winning record. Additionally, the Los Teques fighter is yet to compete away from his home nation. The aggressive Kulakhmet can make it three wins out of three by concluding matters inside schedule.

Elsewhere on the card, left-handed livewire Keyshawn Davis, 1-0 (1), continues his education in the pros with a six-round matchup against Ghana’s Richman Ashelley, 10-1 (9). The undefeated Norfolk, Virginia lightweight, who claimed a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships, can vanquish his fellow 22-year-old via stoppage.

Promotional duties for the event are shared by D4G, Top Rank and Queensberry.

The Verdict Herring vs Frampton has been a long time coming, but it should prove worth the wait.