“I’ll lose a little bit of respect for him,” Carl Frampton said of rival Léo Santa Cruz, should the Mexican champion prevent a conclusion to their trilogy.
Speaking exclusively to the Clitheroe Advertiser, tucked away in the Ribble Valley suburb responsible for spawning his professional career, the 30-year-old strategically mapped out his future in the sport with time, admittedly, running out.
“I have three years maximum,” was the cry from ‘The Jackal’, at the Stirk House in Gisburn where he was reunited with former coach Kevin Maree, who he was introduced to around a decade ago by manager Barry McGuigan.
Frampton was on top of the world building toward the second instalment with ‘El Terremoto’ whose alias, quite fittingly, having shaken things up in the 126lb division, translates to ‘earthquake’.
The Belfast-born boxer obliterated the odds, and the opinions of so-called ‘experts’, when climbing up in weight and swiping the WBA Super World featherweight strap from his foe’s clutches, consequently inflicting the first defeat of Santa Cruz’s tenure.
“The first fight with Santa Cruz I beat a three-weight world champion in New York and he was a massive favourite,” he said. “I think 35 American journalists were asked who was going to win the fight and 33 picked him.
It’s one each now between myself and Leo and I think that we should fight again, end the trilogyCarl Frampton
“I went out there and won the fight and did it quite convincingly. It was something that I was very proud of.”
That brought riches beyond his wildest dreams, not just financially. Frampton won the most prestigious poll in boxing when he was named Ring magazine’s Fighter of the Year award for 2016, mirroring the accolades bestowed by ESPN, Boxing News and Boxing Writers Association of America.
Frampton, also inducted in to the sport’s pound-for-pound top 10, was truly humbled by such recognition, in receiving boxing’s equal of an Oscar, but it’s the safe return of his belt that he craves more than anything.
He and Santa Cruz have shared the spoils from their contests at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but it’s the California resident that currently rules the roost.
“I was disappointed, gutted and upset for a while,” said Frampton of his majority decision loss. “I tried to watch the fight back recently and I can’t watch it yet because I don’t like it and it’s still a bit raw. It wasn’t that long ago.
“When you take a defeat you either move on, put it in the past and learn from your mistakes or you start thinking about packing it in. I still believe that there’s a lot more to come. I believe I can get better and improve.”
Negotiations are underway to stage a fitting end to the battle and Frampton’s representatives are reportedly throwing big sums of treasure at Santa Cruz’s people in hope of enticing him to take part in a ‘decider’ at Windsor Park, just a stone’s throw away from Midland White City Amateur Boxing Club, in Tigers Bay, where it all began.
“It’s one each now between myself and Leo and I think that we should fight again, end the trilogy,” he said. “If I’m performing then I win the fight. It sets it up nicely.
“I would like to win my world titles back because I’m not the champion anymore. I would like to be the champ again, I would like to beat Santa Cruz and settle the score.
“That’s the plan. Santa Cruz is my dream fight. I want to fight next in Belfast. That’s the objective of my team and myself. I want Santa Cruz, that’s the man I want to fight.
“He says he’ll come to Belfast; we’ve offered him a lot of money to come, more than he’s ever had before and if he says ‘no’ then I’ll lose a little bit of respect for him.
“It would be one of the biggest sporting events that Northern Ireland has ever seen. The trilogy between me and him, outside at Windsor Park, would be huge and that’s the man I want.
“He’s done something that nobody else has ever done to me as a professional - he beat me fair and square and I want to get him back.”