Frampton vs. Molitor: Can Top UK Prospect Defeat Former World Champion?

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Frampton vs. Molitor: Can Top UK Prospect Defeat Former World Champion?
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After a tremendous weekend for boxing where the well-rounded yet dueling cards headlined by Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Josesito Lopez provided drama and thrilling stoppages, fans are inevitably left to come down from the high.

According to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, ESPN3 could very well provide a satisfactory interim fix for fans curious to see one of the United Kingdom’s top prospects. This Saturday, ESPN3.com will carry live coverage (4 p.m. ET) of the bout between Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton and former two-time IBF super bantamweight champion Steve Molitor of Canada.

Frampton (14-0, 9 KO) has a solid backing with Hall-of-Fame fighter Barry McGuigan as his manager, and the 25-year-old, despite only 14 career bouts, seems poised to ascend to the world level. Having already claimed the Commonwealth (British Empire) and IBF Inter-Continental super bantamweight titles, Frampton will be putting both minor straps on the line against his toughest opponent to date.

Molitor (34-2, 12 KO) first won the IBF title in 2006 with a fifth-round knockout of Brit Michael Hunter and went on to make five defenses in rapid succession before getting blown out in four rounds by Celestino Caballero in a significant unification fight. After stringing together three consecutive victories, Molitor again captured the IBF strap and would make one defense before losing a unanimous decision to Takalani Ndlovu, a man Molitor had stopped during his first title reign.

At 32, it is fair to speculate as to whether Molitor is on the downside of his career. Never a thudding puncher, Molitor has consistently relied on his speed and precise boxing, and one wonders whether the loss to Ndlovu is a sign of eroding skills.

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Can Steve Molitor (right) recapture his old form?

Conversely, Frampton is clearly a fighter on the rise. Blessed with well-honed boxing skills, a willingness to engage and quality power for his weight class, Frampton exhibits the poise and ring generalship of a veteran fighter. In his last fight—on the undercard of the Carl Froch-Lucian Bute title fight in Nottingham—Frampton won a decision over the tough Raul Hirales. Most impressive was Frampton’s sustained offense and unwillingness to allow his iron-chinned opponent to thwart his game plan.

Frampton will need to make full use of his maturity against Molitor, who, despite his recent setback followed by a tight split decision win over Sebastien Gauthier, still brings world-level boxing ability and the experience of 10 championship bouts to the table, not to mention an abundance of confidence as quoted in Rafael’s article:

This is too soon for Frampton. He has never been in the ring with someone on my level. He is a good boxer, very aggressive, but he makes a lot of mistakes that I plan on capitalizing on. The plan is to win convincingly here against a young undefeated prospect, and that will put me in line for a world title.

Molitor has reasons for optimism, even after losing his world title two fights ago; as a pro, Molitor is 4-0 in the UK, with two of those wins having come in world championship bouts. Still, Molitor will need more than history on his side if he hopes to defeat Frampton, and this bout might be the case of a prospect catching a former champion at the opportune moment.

Other than his last three fights against Kris Hughes, Prosper Ankrah and the aforementioned Hirales, Frampton has not fought anyone of consequence, whereas Molitor has been at the championship level since before Frampton turned pro.

It is of course admirable that Frampton is willing to take a significant risk and step up in class so early in his career. Expect Molitor to extend Frampton the distance and even cause moments of distress with his boxing skills and experience. While Frampton is the obvious choice to win—perhaps by late stoppage—don’t be shocked if Molitor nips him for a tight decision.

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