• Steve Bunce

Don't let Quigg-Frampton be one of the great 'what-ifs'

Steve Bunce April 1, 2014
Scott Quigg faces a tough third defence of his WBA title against Nehomar Cermeno © Getty Images

It would be nice to think that British super-bantamweights Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton are moving ever closer to one of the great domestic blockbusters - but it's not going to happen any time soon.

This Friday, in Belfast, Frampton takes the final dangerous step towards a world title challenge later in the year when he meets Mexican veteran Hugo Fidel Cazares at the Odyssey Arena. Cazares has been in 15 world title fights and the three he lost were in the backyards of exceptional fighters. He will feel at home in front of the Frampton faithful.

Two weeks later, it is Quigg's turn to delight when he finally gets the chance to do his stuff at the Manchester Arena. Quigg will be making the third defence of his WBA super-bantamweight title, which he inherited after holding the WBA's interim title - a process that, I think, does more harm than good.

Buncey's Vaults

Pat Barrett (left) in happier times, fighting at City Hall, St Albans, in 1989 © PA Photos
  • A sad story this week about Pat Barrett fighting on his own on Christmas day in Belgium. "There will be little joy during his self-imposed isolation, his 42nd fight."

    Barrett had won the British and European titles in style but a world title fight collapsed at 24-hours notice, he had been in prison again and he was a marked man. "The police never liked the company I kept. But, I mean, I was getting stopped three or four times each day." Barrett told me.

    He had tried to escape and train and fight in America but that ended badly: "His outstanding fines for failing to produce his vehicle details had mounted to almost £6,000 and shortly after returning he was arrested and sent to Risley." Barrett served three months and was then back in the gym with Brian Hughes.

    He finally got a world title fight in 1992 but lost on points. It was not a great spectacle and the Manchester papers "listed his arrests for vehicle-related offences" as a reason for his poor performance.

    "His friends are evil. There are no wars in this gym. No blood on this floor. Out there he is involved with gangs, shootings and doing things I don't even know."

    Barrett travelled alone to Izegem, Belgium, and won on Christmas day. It was his last fight.

    As reported in The Independent, December 24, 1994

The concept of an 'interim' champion is fine if the reigning champion is injured or detained. If that happens, the two best available boxers can fight for the interim title, keeping it active until the champion's hand heals or he is let out of prison. However, Quigg is fighting Nehomar Cermeno, who is a hard night's work for any super-bantam, and the Venezuelan-born fighter was until recently the 'interim' champion.

In fact, it is slightly messier than that - it turns out that Quigg and Cermeno both held the 'interim' title at the same time.

The WBA 'interim' title is, you will be pleased to hear, not destined to be vacant for too long and another couple of dreaming fighters will try and earn the hollow honour that both Quigg and Cermeno have claimed during the last year. I guess it keeps promoters and belt makers happy but it is confusing and when a fighter suddenly gets upgraded it just seems odd. There should simply be final eliminators that actually are final eliminators. Either that or the 'interim' champion has to fight the first available boxer from the WBA's top ten.

Cermeno is a quality boxer and exceptionally tough, but why was he the 'interim' champion when Quigg was active as the WBA's champion? To complicate the mess a bit more, the WBA even has a 'super' super-bantamweight champion in the truly super Guillermo Rigondeaux. Hold on, I'm not done: Quigg and Rigondeaux were also both 'interim' champions at the same time.

It is amazing that two of the world's best super-bantamweights will both be fighting in big arenas in Britain inside 15 days and they are both in very difficult fights. There is a very real chance of two British defeats. Both Cermeno and Cazares are convinced that their young opponents have made a mistake in agreeing to the fights. I can see what they mean.

"It's not just about winning,' Quigg said about facing Cermeno. "It's about looking good, and it is the same for Carl." He's right; the hometown crowds will demand a degree of excellence.

Every time Quigg and Frampton win - which I expect them both to do after struggles on the night - a fight between the pair just gets bigger and bigger. If it fails to happen, it will become one of British boxing's most infamous "what if" fights. It's a great debating point, just like "best fighter to never win a world title", but doesn't mean a whole lot - much like the WBA's 'interim' belt.

"The fight with Carl has to happen," Quigg said. "People are really split down the middle - half think that I will win and the other half thinks that he will win. That is why the fight must happen and when it does it will be big."

It will indeed be big and, after two victories in the next two weeks, it can only get bigger.

Carl Frampton will take on Hugo Fidel Cazares as he steps closer to a world title shot © Getty Images
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Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.