The last time Carl Frampton shared a ring with Kiko Martinez he made victory in nine rounds look easy and that has led to a false sense of calm in Belfast before the rematch for the world title on Saturday night.
Frampton was brilliant in February 2013, Martinez played a willing role as a one-dimensional fighter and when it ended, with the Spaniard sprawled all over the canvas, it seemed like their business trading punches was over.
However, boxing works in mysterious ways and as Frampton recuperated from a ruptured eardrum, the Spaniard took a chance on a world title fight against an unbeaten Colombian in America and won the IBF super-bantamweight title with a stoppage.
It looked like a fluke, and then Martinez met former champion Jeffrey Mathebula in Spain and took the right money to risk it all against former double world champion Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan; Martinez stopped both, which brings him neatly back to Belfast for some unfinished business, and the highest payday of his career.
“Frampton is crazy if he thinks that he will be fighting the same man,” said Martinez. “I’m the champion now, I have had better fights since that night and I have been talking about coming back to Belfast since the first fight – the truth is that Frampton never wanted to give me a rematch.”
Frampton was, it has to be said, concentrating on fighting the WBC champion at the weight, a slick operator called Leo Santa Cruz, and when that fight collapsed behind a shocking silence from the Santa Cruz camp it was Martinez who stepped forward, his pocket bulging with cash.
“I know it will be a different Martinez,” countered Frampton. “Well guess what? I will be different, I have improved since then and I know what he can do. I’m not the one saying it will be easy, that is him.” The pleasant days spent in each other’s company this week turned vicious at Friday’s open weigh-in and that is, in my opinion, crucial before any big fight.
In the first fight Frampton was able to move, counter with ease and increasingly hurt Martinez. Frampton boxed more, in the sense that he was cautious, than he had since his amateur days, using precision, a simple jab and most of the canvas to ruin Martinez’s resistance.
This time, it seems, there is a plan to move less and perhaps concentrate more on defensive boxing up close and this could, in theory, put Martinez under extreme pressure very quickly. Martinez, who is just a year older at 28, has stopped or knocked out 14 men inside three rounds, stopped a total of 23 in 31 wins, and taking away his power is a risk.
Frampton has been under the spotlight in Belfast since turning professional with Barry McGuigan in 2009. Saturday night needs to be about calm, about tactics and with over 16,000 in the Titanic Quarter there is every chance that both boxers will lose their heads at some point.
Saturday's winner will be the man who can stay relaxed, fight his fight and respond to just the one voice in his corner. It could be Martinez but, as the rounds torment the devoted, it will be the Belfast idol’s calm that brings joy to a city united by its fighters.Reuse content