Carl Frampton finished his last major stint of sparring on Tuesday, pushed through the rounds by Aqib Fiaz, an amateur lightweight from Oldham. “Without doubt the best session I’ve done in years,” Frampton tweeted and his trainer, Jamie Moore, agreed.
Moore has worked with Frampton for 15 months, ever since the Belfast boxer split acrimoniously with Barry and Shane McGuigan, and the former European light-middleweight champion cannot remember Frampton looking better.
“The last big sparring date is always a milepost and he absolutely smashed it,” Moore said. “It’s confirmation in my mind that he’s exactly where I wanted him to be, plus a little bit more.”
Moore, whose gym is based in Astley on the outskirts of Manchester, has paid particular attention to Frampton’s conditioning.
A week tonight, at Manchester Arena, Frampton will challenge for Josh Warrington’s IBF featherweight title in a captivating, all-British match-up.
Moore would put his house on his fighter’s technical skill deciding the contest but he and Frampton were present at ringside in May to watch Warrington claim his IBF belt by bullying and wearing out the talented Lee Selby.
“Carl’s got a fantastic skill-set but the one thing we can’t get caught out on is work-rate,” said Moore. “Josh is a great workhorse and Carl absolutely needs to match him on that front. I pushed the intensity of his training earlier than I normally would because I want him to be every bit as fit.
“Every round will be close and the fight’s going to go at a high pace, which is what we’ve prepared for. Personally, I think Carl will be head and shoulders above Josh technically and I’m very confident that the better work will come from him.”
More than half of Frampton’s 26 professional wins came inside the distance, a better stoppage rate than Warrington’s, but Warrington has never been knocked down and he dominated Selby with relentless work over 12 rounds at Elland Road.
Moore admitted that he and Frampton would not have considered taking a fight with Warrington prior to his win over Selby but said: “He’s proven he’s in that class now. I didn’t expect him to do what he did to Selby.
“It might be that he got Selby at the right time but that’s the way boxing works. You’ve still got to go in there and fight like Josh did. You’d call him a world-class fighter now but Carl, to me, is an elite fighter. Is this a fight we’d have thought about visiting before the win over Selby? No. But Josh has absolutely earned it. The Selby win put him on the radar.”
Frampton is four years on from winning his first world title, the IBF’s version of the super-bantamweight crown, but his last major belt – the WBA featherweight title – was lost to Leo Santa Cruz 18 months ago. He has registered three straight wins with Moore in his corner, the most recent victory a punishing stoppage of Australian Luke Jackson at Windsor Park in Belfast. A heavily-bruised Jackson finished the night with two perforated eardrums.
“When you’ve been a world champion, when you’ve fought in New York and Vegas, you feel like you belong there,” Moore said. “Carl’s had a bit of criticism, he had a fall-out with his old team and there were questions asked about him but he wants a world title again and I honestly don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. In 15 months of working with him, this is the best he’s looked.”