Carl Frampton has not given up hope of a third fight with Leo Santa Cruz after announcing that he will face Mexican Andres Gutierrez on July 29.
The Northern Irishman meets Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs) in a WBC world featherweight title eliminator at the SSE Arena after Santa Cruz declined to meet him this summer in the UK.
Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) has not fought since losing his WBA version of the world featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz on points in January but victory over Gutierrez will secure a shot at American Gary Russell Jr, the WBC champion.
The 30-year-old had hoped to face Santa Cruz at the revamped Windsor Park, the outdoor stadium of the national football team, but hopes that a third fight with the Mexican is still possible.
“After he beat me, what he was saying before the fight changed very quickly,” Frampton told a press conference in Belfast on Wednesday.
“But I understand why he didn’t come. He has just won the title and, for the money he is going to get paid in the States, it needed to be on a pay-per-view date in the States, and it wasn’t. There were no dates available for a pay-per-view date.
“I’m disappointed he hasn’t come but, look, it’s one each between us and I’m hoping that fight will happen at some point.
“But I need to get past Gutierrez first and that’s a really difficult fight so I’m completely focused on one man and that isn’t Leo Santa Cruz.”
Frampton, who is No. 1 in the latest WBC rankings, is looking forward to boxing in Belfast for the first time in over two years.
“I’m very excited to be boxing back in Belfast,” he said. “I believe my best performances are when I box at home.
“I think a lot of people were expecting this fight to be at Windsor Park but it wasn’t to be for a few reasons.
“My dream is to fight at Windsor Park at some point in time but the Odyssey is where the best performance in my career was, against Chris Avalos. The atmosphere can’t be replicated; it’s spectacular.
“There’s something special about boxing in Belfast. My last four fights have been away from home and I’ve been desperate to get back home.”
Three out of Frampton’s last four fights have been in America and he wanted to repay his fans for travelling overseas to see him with a home fight against a good opponent.
“I wanted a hard fight, I didn’t want to mug the fans and go in against a nobody,” he continued.
“I will need to be at my best and, if I’m not, I may lose this fight.”
Gutierrez, 23, has only fought outside of Mexico once and last year suffered his first defeat, on points to Cristian Mijares.
Two-weight world champion Frampton’s manager, Barry McGuigan, says that Gutierrez is a dangerous assignment for the home hero.
“We wanted Carl to have a serious test,” said McGuigan at a press conference in Belfast city centre.
“This guy is no-nonsense, an all-out attacking fighter with a tremendous punch. He’s a whirlwind and he won’t leave you alone.
“I felt Carl needed an opponent like that to get him back to his sharp best and we feel that will happen. It will be action-packed from start to finish.”