Carl Frampton, left, during his victorious fight against Tyler McCreary in Las Vegas on Nov. 30, 2019. INPHO/STEVIE ENGLISH
By Jay Mwamba
Top Rank’s Irish stars Carl “The Jackal” Frampton and Michael Conlan co-headline a London card on Saturday, Aug. 15, in the Belfast duo’s first ring action since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic early this year. The show is behind closed doors at the BT Sport Studio and will be broadcast live in the U.S. on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, from 4 p.m. EST.
Frampton, a two-division world champion with a 27-2 [15 KOs] ledger, tackles once-beaten Armenian Vahram Vardanyan [21-1-1, 14 KOs] in a scheduled 10-round super featherweight contest. Conlan, world-ranked and undefeated [13-0, 7 KOs], is also scheduled to go 10 heats with former European featherweight champion and recent world title challenger Sofiane Takoucht [35-4-1, 13 KOs].
[caption id="attachment_109379" align="alignnone" width="300"] Michael Conlan after he stopped Diego Alberto Ruiz in the ninth round of their fight in Falls Park, Belfast, on Aug. 3, 2019. INPHO/JONATHAN PORTER[/caption]
“What a tremendous opportunity for fight fans to see Mick and Carl fight on the same card,” said Bob Arum, chairman of Las Vegas-based Top Rank which promotes the two Irishmen. "Carl and Mick are closing in on world title opportunities, and I expect spectacular performances from both men.”
Frampton returns following his dominant 10-round decision over the previously undefeated Tyler McCreary last November in Las Vegas. Vardanyan has won six in a row since the lone defeat of his career, and Frampton must prevail to earn a shot at WBO junior lightweight world champion Jamel Herring. Frampton’s goal is to become the first Irish boxer to win world titles in three weight classes.
“I'm excited to get back in the ring, especially as I was unsure at the start of this lockdown about whether I'd get the chance to fight this year at all,” Frampton said. "The Jamel Herring fight was meant to happen in the summer but got ruled out, so this is a fight that keeps me busy and keeps me active. Hopefully, I get the win here, and then we can have the Herring fight for the world title later this year or in early 2021.”
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In Conlan's last outing last December, he avenged his bitter defeat from the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals, notching a unanimous decision win over Vladimir Nikitin at Madison Square Garden. A planned St. Patrick’s Day return to New York was called off due to the ongoing pandemic, but Conlan will stay active against Takoucht, who in his most recent contest challenged Josh Warrington for the IBF featherweight world title. Before the Warrington fight, Takoucht had won eight in a row.
"I'm delighted to be back boxing again. I haven't stopped training throughout lockdown, so I'm coming in prepared, and I expect to put on a big performance,” Conlan said. "I'm interested to see how it will be fighting in front of no fans, but I've done it before in the amateurs, so experiencing that again is something I'm looking forward to.”
On the undercard, Limerick welterweight Paddy “Real Deal” Donovan [3-0, 2 KOs] makes his debut as a Top Rank fighter against an opponent to be named. Donovan is trained and managed by former world middleweight titlist Andy Lee. The undercard bouts will stream live on ESPN+ from 2 p.m. EST.