SURREAL and dispiriting. 2017 has been a difficult year for Carl Frampton. He lost his WBA featherweight world title in his rematch with Leo Santa Cruz and a tortured homecoming bout ended in farce as his opponent, Andres Guttierrez, fell in the shower the night before their contest, injuring himself so badly he was unable to box.

Now Frampton is back in Belfast with a new trainer, a new promoter, a new television channel, and a new opponent. Carl is confident Horatio Garcia isn’t going to suffer a bathroom related tumble this Friday night. “I think he’ll be alright,” Frampton reflected.

The Belfast man is feeling alright himself. It was a major decision when he left manager and professional mentor Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan, with whom Frampton had enjoyed tremendous success. Carl now trains with Jamie Moore in Manchester, Frank Warren is promoting him and Saturday’s fight will be screened on BT Sport.

“It wasn’t an easy decision but I felt like I need to do what was best for me and my career. I’ve done that. I think even before going into this fight, the way I’m feeling mentally. I’m happy about everything. I feel it was the right decision. Things are going very, very smoothly. I’m enjoying boxing again, which I haven’t really been in the last few years. I’ve always been talking about the end game and can’t wait to hit 32 and that’s me done, finished and blah, blah, blah. I’m not even thinking about that anymore,” he said. “I feel good, I feel fresh, I feel excited. It’s a long time since I fought in Belfast last, so I’m excited about it and excited about putting in a new performance under a completely new team.”

He was downcast earlier this year, musing on an exit strategy from the sport, even though he undoubtedly had more to give and more to achieve. What was the moment when he decided to make a change? “There wasn’t a particular point. Probably when you come out of a situation, I just thought I hate this boxing game. I don’t know, just a change has done me good. Being around new people, it’s great craic in the gym. We always train hard but there’s a bit of light-heartedness about it as well,” Frampton said.

carl frampton

He looks forward to the challenge ahead of him, to get himself back to the top. “He’s a good fighter. A stereotypical Mexican fighter. He takes a good shot, he punches hard, he punches long. He comes forward, he’s aggressive, he’s brave, he’s fit. So all these things are good about him. I believe I’m the best featherweight in the world I just need to go and prove that. I should be beating Horatio Garcia. He’s no mug. At this stage and the level that I’m at, I can’t be fighting mugs, I need to be fighting good opposition and I think that this guy’s a good fighter. But it’s a fight that gets me back to my best and it gets me back in the ring with one of the big boys in the decision,” Carl said.

“The one I want is Leo Santa Cruz. No disrespect to [IBF champion Lee] Selby or Josh Warrington but the fighter I want to fight and the biggest fight for me is the trilogy fight with Leo Santa Cruz. If that can be made, that’s the one I want. If not, I’m happy to fight the winner of Selby and Warrington.”

Given the enthused crowd and tremendous atmosphere Frampton creates in Belfast, it would logical for his new backers to bring Santa Cruz to Northern Ireland for their climactic showdown.

“It would make sense for everyone, it would be a huge event not only for BT and their platform and a huge coup for them but for Northern Ireland I think,” Frampton said, “it would be a massive event for Northern Ireland and it would benefit the whole country.”