When Carl Frampton iced Hugo Cazares inside two rounds on Friday, he earned a shot at Leo Santa Cruz's WBC super bantamweight title.
Although Frampton is now the No. 1 contender for that belt, he told Glynn Evans of BoxNation that he doesn't "expect a world title fight with Santa Cruz to happen before about September because he's been quite hectic of late and picked up a cut in his last fight so probably needs a rest."
In the same interview, "The Jackal" expressed his desire to fight four times this year, so he will now be looking to find an early summer opponent for a keep busy fight.
Into that mix came a surprising offer from Gary Hyde, the manager of the WBA and WBO champion Guillermo Rigondeaux:
It is a very unusual situation for a division kingpin to be so desperate to fight a contender that he will travel to his prospective opponent's hometown.
This is a testament to both the popularity of Frampton in Belfast and the unpopularity of Rigondeaux everywhere.
Whereas Frampton packed 9,000 fans into the Odyssey Arena on Friday, Rigondeaux, as reported by Kevin Iole at Yahoo!, had fans leaving the arena from as early as the second round of his last fight against Joseph Agbeko. That contest had lower TV ratings than its undercard match between James Kirkland and Glen Tapia—a non-title bout.
Even before Agbeko, there was a question as to whether HBO would continue to televise Rigondeaux, with his promoter Bob Arum memorably telling ESPN's Dan Rafael, "Every time I mention him, they throw up."
Rigondeaux, whilst probably a top-10 pound-for-pound guy in terms of skill, is not TV-friendly because he fights in an unglamorous division, can't speak English and has a style that is both reactive and defensive.
Back in 2012 speaking to The Ring's Lem Satterfield, Arum said of his charge, "Nobody wants to watch him...he’s realizing that...he’s going to become more of a professional knockout kind of guy."
But after stopping the unheralded Teon Kennedy, Rigondeaux's last three fights have all gone the 12-round distance while being less than riveting.
That's just one reason Frampton doesn't need the Cuban—a fight with Santa Cruz will almost certainly be both more competitive and more exciting.
Critics might carp that Frampton is simply going for the easier champion, but while Santa Cruz and Rigondeaux remain undefeated, there is not all that much to choose between them in terms of achievement.
More tellingly, if Frampton wanted to win a world title in the least challenging fashion, he would pursue a date with IBF champion Kiko Martinez, whom he beat in 2013.
Frampton has targeted Santa Cruz for some time and has been preparing for that fight. There is no need for him to change course, especially when Rigondeaux would require very different preparation due to his awkward style.
Furthermore, the Northern Irishman, at age 27, is still developing as a fighter. The win over Martinez was his only fight against a top-10 guy in the division.
However, there is a big difference between two fighters at the top of their games avoiding each other and a fighter who is on his way up waiting for the right moment to make a leap in class.
There is a similarity between Rigondeaux wanting Frampton now to Mayweather wanting Canelo Alvarez last year. Frampton and Canelo are entertaining young fighters who are improving fight by fight.
Mayweather, with the bait of the huge pay-per-view money he attracts, was able to fight Canelo before the Mexican had peaked and won a comfortable decision. No doubt Rigondeaux and his team would like to do the same to Frampton before he reaches his full potential.
But unlike Canelo, the money on offer to fight Rigondeaux is not so good as to tempt Frampton into a premature showdown. Fans would much rather see the winner of Frampton vs. Santa Cruz face Rigondeaux in 2015 when one of them might be truly ready to challenge the experienced Cuban.
As for Frampton, he will hope to bring Santa Cruz to Belfast, which is plausible, given that Frampton is a bigger live draw than the Mexican. However, it will depend upon the whims of the U.S. TV network, Showtime.
It would be unfair to accuse Frampton of "ducking" Rigondeaux while he seeks out Santa Cruz—a fight that would clearly be the toughest test of his career.
In the meantime, Rigondeaux should challenge himself and seek a proper test at featherweight if he wants to keep making HBO money.
Frampton vs. Santa Cruz is one of the most awaited contests involving a British fighter in 2014, and if Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions can bring the fight to Belfast, the local man might just start as the favourite. Let Rigondeaux wait.
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