British boxing fans have already gotten one dose of good news this week.
Now there are reports that an even better story might be on the way.
The first announcement was that the long-awaited junior-featherweight clash between two of the United Kingdom’s favorite sons, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, is going to take place in Manchester on Feb. 27. Frampton (21-0) holds the IBF championship and Quigg (31-0-2) is the WBA titlist, while they are also ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 contenders to linear champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.
A day later, reports began to surface that Britain’s most popular fighter, Amir Khan, is close to locking up his dream fight, a match with Manny Pacquiao next spring. Top Rank denies that the contract is complete, but it looks like Khan might get the shot at Pacquiao that he never got from Floyd Mayweather.
Either way, the headlines will start with Frampton and Quigg, who will be battling for more than two belts and the status as the second-best fighter at 122 pounds. There will also be national pride at stake, because while both men are from the UK, they come from very different countries.
Quigg is an Englishman, hailing from Bury, which is part of the greater Manchester area, and he will have the advantage of the home crowd on fight night. Frampton, on the other hand, is from Belfast in Northern Ireland – a country that will be very quick to remind you that, while it is British, it is certainly not part of England.
Frampton’s popularity transcends borders on the Emerald Isle, which is unified under one amateur-boxing body. He chose to represent Ireland over the United Kingdom at the European championships, winning a silver medal in 2007, and his manager, Barry McGuigan is still widely loved in both Belfast and Dublin.
Meanwhile, across the sea on the island of Great Britain, it is Quigg who is the favorite. He’s never fought outside England, and Manchester is his home base. While he won his title in London, four of his five defenses have been at Manchester Arena, which will also be the site of his battle with Frampton.
Frampton had hoped to fight in Belfast, but expressed confidence that he will be able to win in Quigg’s venue.
“I’m the legitimate champion and I’m going to his backyard to defend my title because that’s what champions do,” he said in the statement announcing the fight. “The fans will find out who the real champion is, I’m going to win this fight in style.”
Quigg, though, thinks the home crowd will give him the advantage.
“February 27 will be the best night of my life,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life to this sport and I have never been more confident going into a fight, I know I will beat him in every department.
“This is a great fight for the sport and I’m delighted to bring it to Manchester and unify the division.”
Frampton and Quigg have been calling each other out for most of their careers, but any bad blood that appears in the buildup to the fight will almost certainly be scripted for the media. It’s a rivalry based on national pride, not personal vendettas, and hopefully the promotion will focus on that instead of forcing a hatred storyline down the public’s throats.
As for Khan-Pacquiao, Bob Arum claims the reports are false, but this is a man who coined the phrase “Yesterday, I was lying to you. Today, I’m telling you the truth,” so anything he says is meaningless. If the fight comes off, it would fill the linear welterweight title left vacant by Floyd Mayweather’s retirement, and it would give Khan his long-awaited chance at a career-defining victory.
Khan did everything in his power to get the Mayweather fight, and signed a contract multiple times, only to have Mayweather’s camp refuse to go along. Pacquiao also waited for Mayweather, hoping for a rematch in the spring, but now that he seems to be locked into retirement for the near future, they might have to end up fighting each other.
The other possible opponents for Pacquiao’s comeback from shoulder surgery, and his own probable final fight, include Terence Crawford and Timothy Bradley. Bradley would be a rematch of a fight Pacquiao lost, but the decision was so bad that there isn’t much interest in seeing it again.
Crawford would be coming up in weight, having just moved from 135 pounds to 140, but he’s also one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and could possibly overwhelm a 36-year-old coming off an injury.
That leaves Khan, who combines an exciting style with a bad chin. That’s why he wants to fight Pacquiao before a rematch with Danny Garcia, who knocked him out at 140 pounds. He knows that one more loss would end his chances at one giant payday, and facing Garcia’s punching power again could very easily hand him that loss.