It’s hard to imagine 2016 Fighter of the Year honors going to anybody besides the winner of Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward. If Kovalev wins, he’s defeated one of the top pound-for-pound stars of this generation. If Ward wins, he’s complete a remarkable comeback by defeating one of the sport’s scariest punchers and most cold-blooded technical boxers.
But if the year ended today, Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton would be the natural choice.
In February, he defeated previously unbeaten Scott Quigg, to unify the IBF and WBA belts at 122 pounds. Last Saturday night in Brooklyn, he gave Leo Santa Cruz his first loss and lifted the WBA featherweight title in the process.
Nobody else in the sport has notched two better wins this year.
Against Santa Cruz, Frampton had to finesse and opponent with a substantial reach advantage. Santa Cruz is also the very definition of a “high-volume puncher.” He threw more than a 1000 punches against Frampton. It takes something truly special to beat another fighter when he’s throwing that kind of leather.
But Frampton was indeed “something special” in Brooklyn Saturday. He used outstanding footwork and angles to land the much better punches throughout the fight. It was a very close bout and a short-list candidate for Fight of the Year. One judge scored it a draw. While scoring it a draw wasn’t exactly a travesty, I do believe that Frampton deserved to win.
At this point, Frampton has a good case for inclusion on mythical pound-for-pound lists. At the very least, he’s in line for some very high-profile fights.
A good bet for his first bout will be England’s Lee Selby, the IBF featherweight champion. Selby is a clever boxer but lacks in the power department. I’d favor Frampton in that bout for sure, but it would probably do great box office in the United Kingdom.
The two fights that I would really find intriguing for Frampton would be either super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux or WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. Rigo would provide a great technical test for Frampton. A bout with Russell would be a potential Fight of the Year.