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Carl Frampton: Nonito Donaire 'the best fighter that I will have ever fought'

Carl Frampton faces a big challenge in former fighter of the year Nonito Donaire. Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Nonito Donaire has won world titles in four weight classes -- flyweight, bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight -- based largely on a devastating left hook that has put many an opponent down and out on the canvas.

But if you ask Carl Frampton, who will face Donaire for a vacant interim featherweight world title Saturday at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland -- Frampton's hometown -- Donaire brings a lot more to the table than just one great punch. The fight will stream live on Showtime Sports' YouTube channel and the Showtime Boxing Facebook page beginning at 5:15 p.m. ET.

"I think it's been a bit disrespectful just talking about his left hook," Frampton said at Wednesday's final pre-fight news conference. "It takes more than a left hook to become a Ring Magazine fighter of the year or [four-division] world champion. He has a brilliant slip right hand.

"I know a lot about Nonito Donaire and to say all he has is a left hook is a bit disrespectful. He's a brilliant fighter and he can do a bit of everything. I'll need to be ready for different situations and I feel like I've covered all the bases in training camp."

Frampton (24-1, 14 KOs), 31, wasn't quite done heaping praise on Donaire (38-4, 24 KOs), 35, a Philippines native fighting out of Las Vegas.

"I had a lot of respect for Donaire back when he was a champion and I still do," Frampton said. "He's a quality fighter. In terms of accolades, he's accomplished more than any other fighter that I've ever fought. He's a future Hall of Famer. Hopefully, I can put myself in that bracket one day.

"He is the best fighter that I will have ever fought. That includes Leo Santa Cruz and [Scott] Quigg and everyone else. Donaire has accomplished more than anyone. It's going to be big for me to get a result here on Saturday night."

Donaire also paid tribute to Frampton.

"He is the best fighter that I will have ever fought. That includes Leo Santa Cruz and [Scott] Quigg and everyone else. Donaire has accomplished more than anyone. It's going to be big for me to get a result here on Saturday night." Carl Frampton

"The key factor in this fight is that my wife [Rachel] and I feel that we're married to Carl because we wake up, we see Carl; we sleep, we see Carl; everything we do we see Carl, so that's pretty much what it's all about," he said. "I have to say, Carl is an amazing fighter. I have to give it to the guy. For a long time, he was the boogeyman in boxing. He has chosen this fight because it inspires him and I came to Belfast because it inspires me."

Frampton said he wanted a serious opponent; Donaire was willing and available.

"Some people want the easiest fights possible but that's not me. I don't think that's Nonito, either," Frampton said. "I want to be in fights that people talk about and are interested in. This is a fight that puts the winner in position to fight Oscar Valdez for a chance to be a world champion again. When I'm in that position to fight for a world title, it's fights like this one that are preparing me to go and win it."

Frampton, a former junior featherweight and featherweight world titleholder, is seeking his second win in a row since losing his featherweight belt by majority decision to Santa Cruz in their January 2017 rematch.

The winner of Frampton-Donaire will claim an interim 126-pound belt that will put him in position as the mandatory challenger for Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs), who is sidelined for several months due to a broken jaw suffered in his unanimous decision over Quigg in a March 10 slugfest. Frampton-Donaire was already made but upgraded to being for the interim belt after Valdez suffered the injury.

Donaire lost his junior featherweight world title by controversial decision to Jessie Magdaleno in November 2016 and has won his only fight since. But this bout is a step back up against top-notch opposition. The 2012 fighter of the year said he can handle it.

"I have to say, Carl is an amazing fighter. I have to give it to the guy. For a long time, he was the boogeyman in boxing. He has chosen this fight because it inspires him and I came to Belfast because it inspires me." Nonito Donaire

"I believe that I am gifted with great genes. I'm a late bloomer," Donaire said. "I feel like I'm starting to get into my peak shape and that's because of my mentality. Our physical shape can only be as strong as our minds inside that ring. The strength of our mental fortitude has allowed us to be confident here in Belfast where we will be fighting one of the best fighters in the world.

"I think I'm a smarter fighter than I was in 2012. With the ups and downs that I've experienced in my career, I've learned what I'm capable of and where my mind is. We're very confident going into this fight."

Said Mike Bazzel, in his first fight as Donaire's head trainer: "Nonito has the experience of being on top for so long. When you are at the top for so long, there are always going to be little drops and little valleys. There's a maturity with Nonito. Most fighters at this stage of their career have a physical decline. Nonito's body is starting to come into form now. So now he is not only physically peaking, but he is mentally strong because of all the experience he has."