There were wild scenes as IBF World super-bantamweight champion Carl Frampton and his WBA counterpart Scott Quigg weighed in ahead of their feverishly anticipated contest at the Manchester Arena tomorrow night.
Listen to the full preview of the fight on our daily sports podcast, The Racket:
It's been four-and-a-half years in the making, but the respective prides of Belfast and Bury are finally ready to bury the hatchet in what many perceive to be a legitimate 50-50 fight. But who will emerge victorious the longest-running Anglo-Irish rivalry in boxing?
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It's rare that a phrase ever dominates the lead-up to a world title fight to the extent that ‘boxing intelligence’ has this one. Carl Frampton and Cyclone promotions are convinced that the 28-year-old boasts a superior ring IQ to Saturday's opponent. But it's important to note that both boxers, not just 'The Jackal', are students of the game; you need look no further than the timing of the right hand which felled former Frampton foe Kiko Martinez back in July to decipher that Scott Quigg is ‘book-smart’ in boxing terms.
It was a fight which flipped the public perception of a potential Frampton - Quigg outcome on its head, but I found it a slightly curious display by Quigg.
One one hand, he proved himself capable of following his coach Joe Gallagher's orders to perfection, lowering the boom on Martinez with an astutely-timed right hand in the second round. Conversely, the unusually tall Quigg failed to establish range between he and Martinez in the opening stanza, inviting pressure and eating shots from the shorter Spaniard who couldn't find similar success in 21 rounds with Frampton. The finish, too, though it arrived impressively early, seemed a somewhat clumsy assault by Quigg. Such cavalier, looping swings would likely be punished by a boxer-puncher of Frampton's calibre.
But what of The Jackal's own struggles last time out? Well, yes, he touched canvas for the first two times in his career, not minutes after Quigg had dispatched of his former opponent in record time. Yes, he seemed cumbersome, ponderous, in the opening four rounds of his contest with the game Alejandro Gonzalez. Perhaps it was the canvas. Perhaps it was weight issues. Perhaps, as he alluded to this week, Frampton was simply complacent.
But the Belfast man is one of boxing’s most acute observationists; where any super-bantamweight not named Guillermo Rigondeaux would have allowed the fight to slip away, Frampton gradually manouevred inside Gonzalez’s rangey right paw through feints and clever punching angles, seizing control of the contest by the halfway mark.
His unanimous decision victory impressed many who tuned in for the fight on CBS in the States, including co-commentator and former two-weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi. Meanwhile, Irish and British boxing fans were left pondering if indeed his five-year-rival had finally surpassed him at the top level.
Whisper it (if you're in Ireland, at least), but Scott Quigg is probably the bigger puncher of the two super-bantamweight champions this Saturday. If underrated tactician Joe Gallagher and his charge truly believe their opponent has struggled to make weight, we'll likely see the Bury man rip Frampton's body in the opening exchanges with a view to immobilising him in the later rounds.
Indeed, it wouldn't shock me to see 'The Jackal' have to ride out some hairy moments in the opening three rounds as he looks to implement his own gameplan off the back foot.
But once the Belfast man attunes to the timing of Quigg’s advances - and he will - his superior footwork and unrivalled shot selection will see him begin to beat the hometown fighter to the punch. This is where Frampton usually begins to assert his dominance. By testing his opponents' whiskers with thudding one-two combinations, it allows the 29-year-old to feint with either hand - an underrated pugilistic skill which Frampton has mastered under the tutelage of Shane McGuigan.
Quigg and Gallagher will be aware of - and prepared for - Frampton's penchant for the dummy-shot as a set-up, but it's not a bluff that many recipient fighters are comfortable with calling; the bottom line is that by refusing to take the bait, you're always at risk of taking a shot flush instead.
In this sense the feint is as much psychological as it is physical, forcing opponents to second guess Frampton's every offensive move and becoming reactive as opposed to assertive, therefore allowing him to control the pace of the fight. This internalised over-analysis can wreak havoc with a fighter's own gameplan, as it did with Frampton's last three opponents. It's a trend which I expect to continue from the halfway mark of Saturday's contest.
Scott Quigg will land, and will land hard. But Frampton will adapt as only Frampton knows how, and as promised, begin to 'bamboozle' his powerful opponent through use of unusual angles and finely-tuned shots.
If Scott Quigg is book-smart in boxing terms, Carl Frampton is Will Hunting. ‘The Jackal’ takes the decision in front of a mad house in Manchester.