If you’ve only just tuned in to boxing you might think stadium fights are a normal thing – they aren’t.
For Belfast’s Windsor Park attendance record to be broken this Saturday by a boxing event is a sign of the sport’s popularity, the quality of Northern Irish boxers and the considerable knowledge of the boxing fans there.
Hopefully the Ulstermen are onside enough now not to hammer me for saying that I believe Belfast’s boxing poster boy Carl Frampton might struggle to shine in the headline fight against Australian twitter troll and 2012 Olympian Luke Jackson.
I also think Tyson Fury will disappoint again when he does his rounds with heavyweight punch bag Francesco Pianeta and, worst of all, I anticipate Paddy Barnes is in for a very tough night trying to take Cristofer Rosales’ world title.
Frampton was supposed to be facing a big name with a belt for his Windsor Park spectacle but nobody of that description could be found, so the unbeaten but inexperienced Jackson has stepped in and launched a social media assault on the Tigers Bay banger, adding some much needed needle to this interim title contest.
The antagonism has actually gone down as well with Team Frampton as it has with the punters. ‘The Jackal’ has lacked the killer instinct against some of his lesser opponents, however this time he has promised to KO his rival.
As a pro ‘Action’ Jackson has featured exclusively Down Under, mostly in small hall events in his native Hobart against journeymen. However, he and his backers are pinning their hopes on his greater amateur pedigree and his size advantage.
After dominating the super bantamweight division through 2014 to 2016 Frampton moved up to featherweight where he beat title-holder and boxing superstar Leo Santa Cruz.
Frampton suffered his first lost in a tight decision in the rematch, but he’s won his two bouts since.
The former champ would love a stunning stoppage win, although he hasn’t won inside the distance in six fights and he’s never even scored a knockdown as a featherweight. Frampton’s KOs normally come early and you can get a solid 7/2 he wins in rounds 4-6 this time.
I expect to see a primed ‘Jackal’ on Saturday night, however against a strong, hungry opponent he might not manage to cause significant damage. Additionally, Jackson is a counter-puncher who might be happy with a low intensity bout that goes the distance.
Bet of the bout: Frampton to win on points at 2/1.
Fury’s fight with Pianeta is just the unappealing appetiser to the big man’s tasty post fight face-off with heavyweight VIP Deontay Wilder. The champ is in town to generate interest in a potential December showdown with Fury and it’s taken as a given that the Brit is going to win this weekend.
Pianeta challenged for Wladimir Klitschko’s titles in 2013 but was stopped in the sixth round, however he’s only lost three other bouts. That’s as good as it gets for the Italian southpaw.
The main reason why Fury will probably fail to impress this weekend is that his main skill is taking away his opponents weapons and making them look bad. When a foe is actually a bad fighter, Fury toys with his prey before it submits.
Fury knows from sparring Pianeta that he doesn’t have the power, speed or grit to really bother him.
Three of Tyson’s last four challengers retired and six of his last seven KOs have come in rounds 4-8, and we can expect something similar this time.
If Wilder shows up on fight night it’s a big sign the deal between him and Fury is real, and the after fight pantomime with the two big characters will be better than the bout. I expect a drawn out stoppage win landing in the middle-to-late rounds.
Bet of the bout: Fury to win in rounds 5-6 at 10/3.
Nailed on for fight of the night is the battle for flyweight honours between Rosales and Barnes.
They might not be the biggest names or the biggest frames, but it’s the only bout with a proper title on the line and two world class attacking boxers.
The Nicaraguan bruiser has been to the UK twice in his career: losing to the high class pair of Kal Yafai and Andrew Selby but giving both serious tests. Since then Rosales – still only 23 – has improved and grown, and beat-up a very highly rated Japanese fighter in his own backyard to win a world championship.
Having won bronze medals at two consecutive Olympics there is no doubt Barnes has world class skills. As a pro Paddy has notched up five wins and his first stoppage victory came in his last fight against an opponent Rosales could only manage to better by split decision.
Barnes is a highly accurate, relentless puncher and that suited the amateur game, where the contests are short and punches coming back at you are less heavy. In this fight the Ulsterman needs to carefully choose his times to attack and use smart footwork to avoid brawling with a brawler.
Barnes is smaller than both Yafai and Selby, there are question marks over his power and his durability and it’s been 10 years since the Irishman’s first Olympic success.
Rosales is the favourite and I reckon the champ’s size and youth will be too much in the second half of the contest.
Bet of the bout: Rosales to win rounds 7-12 at 13/5.
*All odds correct at time of posting