It’s often said that the journey matters more than the destination, and it’s a truism that applies to the boxers in Belfast this weekend.
The paths of two-time world champion Carl Frampton and multi-weight megastar Nonito Donaire cross in the headline contest on Saturday night, with freakish phenomenon of the lighter divisions Zolani Tete meeting top contender Omar Andres Narvaez. There’s also the crossroads All-Ireland clash between Conrad Cummings and Luke Keeler.
As a fan I don’t care if it’s the journey, the destination or the pit-stop at the motorway services, I just think these are great fights.
Too many times when a boxer doesn’t have a title fight he or she takes on a random Mexican, an unknown Eastern European or African. Frampton has been guilty of this in the past – but not this time. On this occasion he takes on the 2012 boxer of the year, the ‘Filipino Flash’, Donaire.
There will be no belt on the line but the winner will be mandatory for a shot at Oscar Valdez’s waist-bling. The Mexican champion comprehensively saw off former Frampton victim Scott Quigg in March.
Other potential fights for Frampton include the winner of the all-British clash between Lee Selby and Josh Warrington or a trilogy bout with Leo Santa Cruz. If the Belfast boxer wants his summer stadium fight against one of those he has to do the business this Saturday.
Donaire has the name, but at 35 years of age he isn’t at the top of his game. Some of his sharpness has gone and in the featherweight division, one class above the weight he excelled at, his power is reduced. Donaire’s left hook is his money shot and if it detonates an upset is on the cards.
You can get 4/1 for Donaire to win and a whopping 12/1 for the Filipino on points. That’s a great bet for anybody who thinks ‘The Jackal’ has had his day.
Neither fighter has been looking too heavy-handed of late. Frampton has no KOs in five fights and Donaire has only one early victory in his last four. The Irishman should win – he’s sharper, he’s got a tighter defence and Donaire isn’t great on the back foot – but it will be a close contest.
Bet of the bout: Draw 25/1.
This is Tete’s fifth fight in a row in the UK and his second on the spin at Belfast’s SSE Arena. The South African world champion is being groomed for a bantamweight super showdown with Northern Irish native and fellow title-holder Ryan Burnett – but first he must beat the hard-as-nails Argentine Narvaez.
The contender from South America was champion in the fly and super flyweight divisions and, although he’s now in his forties, Narvaez is gamely battling on to try and secure a title in a third weight class.
The champ has several advantages other than his 12-year youth differential. Tete is seven inches taller than his opponent and has a superior KO ratio of 72% to 48%. It doesn’t sound like a fair fight and it probably isn’t: Paddy has Narvaez as a 12/1 underdog.
If Tete catches Narvaez cold it could be an early night. The southpaw Saffa won his last fight in round one with his first punch, while Narvaez once lost in round two after getting dropped in the first session. However, the much more likely outcome is a war until the end.
Bet of the bout: Tete to win on points.
Pick of the undercard
The best of the undercard fights is Coalisland’s Cummings versus Dublin’s Keeler. The middleweights are evenly matched enough for this fight to go either way but Cummings starts at the 4/7 favourite.
Neither man has cracking power: Cummings is too easy to hit and Keeler has shown himself to be a bit soft around the whiskers. But all of those things will just add to the excitement and drama.
If Keeler can use his fast jab to good effect I can see him taking a win on points but I think Cummings’ pressure and strength will tell and he’ll take a stoppage victory.
Bet of the bout: Cummings to win by KO.