Carl Frampton back in Belfast and ready for Andres Gutierrez test

Steve Wellings

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Carl Frampton and Andres Gutierrez will clash in a WBC featherweight title eliminator on Saturday, July 29 at Belfast’s SSE Arena. Rebranded from the Odyssey Arena, this is the first time Carl has graced Northern Ireland’s biggest indoor venue since a fifth-round knockout of Chris Avalos in 2015.

The fight is an official eliminator that will push the winner towards a shot at the WBC strap and a possible fight with Gary Russell Jr, assuming the American sticks around. If Russell Jr vacates and hops up to super-featherweight then Leo Santa Cruz’s WBC Diamond belt could suddenly become more significant.

“We wanted Carl to have a serious test and we’ve certainly got that in Andres Gutierrez,” said Cyclone chairman Barry McGuigan. “Carl needed an opponent like this to get back to his sharpest. The night is going to be spectacular. This might be the last time you see [Frampton] in Belfast.”

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Andres insists that the fervent atmosphere inside the SSE won’t affect him either, as he is only there to fight Carl Frampton and not everybody in the arena! Gutierrez is now trained by Marco Antonio Barrera’s brother Jorge, so brings some solid corner pedigree to the party.

“This is my first time with Andres,” explained Jorge. “As soon as I knew about the Frampton fight I started watching videos to learn about his technique and plan to beat Carl Frampton.”

“I’m ready for this fight, I’m going to give my best and I won’t leave people disappointed,” added Gutierrez. “This is a big challenge to me; the first time I’ve been so far from home for a fight. I’ll work hard and defeat Frampton.”

Frampton’s trainer Shane McGuigan added: “Gutierrez is a hard puncher and a big featherweight. He looks very big today [at the pre-fight press introduction]. Carl’s going in against a young, hungry guy who’s practically unbeaten. I don’t think he lost to Cristian Mijares.”

Frampton is now a three-time, two-weight world champion and he has fought away from home in his last four fights. Having the fight in the SSE will produce a better atmosphere than at an outdoor venue but, as Carl said himself, it will make it increasingly difficult to satisfy ticket demands. If he gets past this test then a possible clash with IBF champion Lee Selby would be on the cards or, as we had expected, a rubber match with Leo Santa Cruz.

“After Leo Santa Cruz beat me, what he said before the fight [about having a third contest in Belfast] definitely changed quickly after the fight,” admitted ‘The Jackal’.

“I understand why he didn’t come. The money he’s getting paid in the States meant it needed to be Pay-Per-View and there were no dates available for a Pay-Per-View. Also, Leo didn’t want to fight Gutierrez when he was at super-bantamweight. This guy [Gutierrez] is an avoided fighter. I was actually close to fighting him that time in El Paso. It was a good job I didn’t.”

Judging by fight footage, Gutierrez is a strong, capable boxer who comes forward in straight lines and applies pressure constantly. His hands aren’t particularly fast, however, and his feet shuffle into range rather than moving quickly at angles. He should be the perfect foil for Frampton whose judgment of distance, range and punch-picking ability, from various positions, remain his greatest assets. Gutierrez will soak up punishment resolutely and I don’t expect him to fall early. He may well last the course but look for Frampton to be chopping him down and beating him around the ninth or tenth round when the referee or corner team compassionately tell him he’s had enough.

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