On Saturday night at the Manchester Arena, Josh Warrington will make the first defence of his IBF featherweight title against Carl Frampton, closing 2018 with one of the biggest fights in British boxing to be made.

Facing Frampton, a man who was knocking on pound-for-pound lists no so long ago, in your first title defence is a daunting task, but Warrington is not short on confidence and self-belief on the back of ripping the title from Lee Selby in a career-best performance. Allied with the magnitude of the fight and the fact that both fighters are signed with Frank Warren, it proved an easy contest to make.

Warrington was the betting underdog heading into his fight with Selby and against Frampton, a two weight world champion and the 2016 Ring Magazine ‘Fighter of the Year’, he is an even less favoured by the bookies. Will he prove a point or will Frampton regain championship glory? We take a look at four facets of each boxer’s game in an attempt to break it down.

Power;

With only 6 knockouts from 27 career wins, power is a not a major part of Warrington’s game. The Leeds man digs well to the body and appears to be punching with more spite than he was in the early stage of his career, as evidenced by stoppage wins over Patrick Hyland and Dennis Ceylan, though these resulted through accumulation of punishment rather than being of the one-hitter-quitter variety.

In contrast, Carl Frampton can put you away with a single shot, as he did to a Kiko Martinez in 2013. His 15 knockouts from 26 career wins testify to decent punching power, but these numbers may even do him a disservice. Leo Santa Cruz has one of the best chins in boxing and is not an easy man to hurt, but that’s exactly what Frampton managed to do in the second round of their first fight, nearly dropping Santa Cruz for the first time in his career.

Frampton’s excellent punch accuracy and technique have also proved key ingredients, but it does help to carry some natural pop. Those who have shared the ring with ‘The Jackal’ have consistently labelled him as one of the hardest punchers they have faced. Just ask Luke Jackson, Frampton’s last opponent: ‘He burst my left ear drum in the third round and my right ear drum in the sixth round so I couldn’t hear anything and that’s probably why my feet got a little shaky. But the body shot was bad, real bad. That just sucked the life out of me. It’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit.’

Advantage Frampton.

Durability;

Josh Warrington has a sturdy chin, having never hit the canvas or even coming close to doing so during his professional boxing career. Kiko Martinez shook him up a few times in their twelve-round war in 2016, but never had put him in serious trouble, and Martinez is a bona fide puncher. Warrington is a volume puncher who puts constant pressure on his opponents and his willingness to engage in the pocket gives all the indication of a man with faith in his punch resistance.

Frampton has been dropped and hurt on a number of occasions during his career, but has always demonstrated good powers of recovery. He has taken shots from world-class fighters and far bigger punchers than Warrington and generally taken them well.

Even.

Boxing IQ and ability;

Josh Warrington has a singular game plan which involves coming forward and throwing a large number of punches to his opponent’s head and body. Ok, that’s a tad simplistic and unfair to Warrington, but it’s not that far from the truth. The good news for Warrington is that he has made it work well so far in his career. It won him the world title against Lee Selby as the defending champion simply couldn’t deal with the pressure of Warrington, the stronger and more physically imposing man.

Frampton will be the smaller man against Warrington, but the compact Ulsterman is likely just as strong. Moreover, he is a great ring general who has his boxing fundamentals and techniques down to a tee. He utilises great movement, use of angles and, most importantly, he has demonstrated the ability to adapt his strategy in the ring. Brawling, fighting on the back foot, being the aggressor, Frampton has been there and done it.

Frampton has already outfoxed a fighter with a similar style to Warrington in the form of Santa Cruz and the Mexican was a far more experienced and accomplished fighter on paper than today’s version of Warrington.

Advantage Frampton.

Experience;

Warrington’s title-winning effort against Selby was undoubtedly the best performance and win of his career; a split decision which should really have been unanimous in Warrington’s favour. It must however be said that Selby was regarded as the weakest of the four featherweight titleholders at the time. Warrington’s second-best career-win came against Martinez and the Spaniard pushed him to the brink in that fight despite being thought to be well past his best. Warrington won a majority decision which many thought could have gone Martinez’s way or been a draw.

Frampton has been fighting at world-class level since 2012 when he emphatically stopped two-time world champion Steve Molitor. In contrast to Warrington, Frampton bested a prime Martinez twice in decisive fashion, knocking him out the first time and widely outpointing him the second time round. Frampton has also defeated the likes of Nonito Donaire, Scott Quigg and Santa Cruz; the latter two victories resulting in his coronation as the 2016 Ring Magazine ‘Fighter of the Year’. He has fought on big stages both at home and in the US. Returning to the Manchester Arena, the scene of his title unification triumph over Quigg, is hardly going to faze him.

Advantage Frampton.

Final prediction;

The odds are stacked against Warrington for good reason. Frampton holds an advantage in almost every conceivable area. He will face height and reach disadvantages, but has done so in nearly every fight during his career and it has not made one shred of difference. Against an opponent like Warrington who likes to come forward and engage, it’s even more of an irrelevance.

For Warrington to stand any chance, he needs to deliver the performance of his life and/or for Frampton to suffer an off night. Frampton has looked lacklustre at times against far-less-talented opponents such as Alejandro Gonzalez and Horacio Garcia, but still did more than enough on both occasions to get the job done. In his last fight against Luke Jackson, Frampton looked far more sharp and clinical. With a world title now on the line, there’s no reason to imagine we won’t see the best from him.

Warrington’s will give a game, honest effort but Frampton’s ring generalship, versatility, and harder, more precise punching will see him emerge victorious via a clear unanimous decision.

Article by: Paul Lam

Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam