Carl Frampton says he needs a victory on Saturday if he wants to challenge for a title again. 

Former two-division world titlist Carl Frampton has not struggled for motivation ahead of Saturday’s non-title bout as he knows defeat would ruin his plans of fighting featherweight titleholders Lee Selby later this year and Leo Santa Cruz in 2018.

The Northern Irishman will also be fighting in his home city of Belfast for the first time since February 2015 when he faces Mexico’s Andres Gutierrez at the SSE Arena, formerly known as the Odyssey Arena.

It is one of five or six fights that featherweight contender Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) says he has left in boxing before retiring, but admits a defeat to Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs) could bring about a premature end to his career.

“I think I perform better under pressure and this is a must-win fight for me,” Frampton told ESPN.

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“I lost a close fight to Leo Santa Cruz, the right man won on the night, but if I slip up on this night, where can I go? It could be career over.

“Gutierrez is a young guy who has more knockout wins than I’ve had fights. He’s up for it, and if he wins this it puts him on the world stage.”

Frampton says he learned never to underestimate an opponent after being floored twice in the first round against Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. in Texas in 2015, before retaining his junior featherweight title on points.

“The Gonzalez fight was one of the most important fights in my life,” Frampton said.

“I learned from it that I will never take a fight for granted after that and there will be no slip up this time, especially the way I’ve been sparring.

“I’m experienced now and I know when to turn it on and I’ve been looking good in recent sparring sessions.”

“I think I perform better under pressure and this is a must win fight for me… I lost a close fight to Leo Santa Cruz, the right man won on the night, but if I slip up on this night where can I go? It could be career over.”

Carl Frampton

The 30-year-old is targeting Welshman Selby (25-1, 9 KOs), 30, before the end of 2017 after going to see Selby defend his belt with a decision win over Argentina’s Jonathan Barros, four days after his mother died earlier this month.

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Despite the clash with Gutierrez being an eliminator for the WBC version of the world title held by American Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs), Frampton is also desperate to face Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) again after losing his belt by unanimous decision to him in Las Vegas in January, in a rematch of Frampton’s win over Santa Cruz in 2016.

“Gary Russell wouldn’t necessarily be my next fight,” Frampton said.

“Selby is a fight that intrigues me because he’s British and he’s class. Under the circumstances, his performance was unbelievable the other night.

“I don’t want to criticize the performance at all because I don’t think I would have been mentally strong enough to do that. Mentally, he’s a very strong fighter and he stuck to a game plan.

“Hopefully we can get it done by the end of the year and the Santa Cruz fight has to happen at some point in my career too. It’s 1-1, two very close fights and you can’t really leave it at that. It’s crying out for a third fight, a rubber match, and hopefully next year we can do it.

“It would be great to get it on in Belfast, or in the UK somewhere or even Dublin, but if he’s not willing to travel I’m happy to go to anywhere for it.

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“Gary Russell is an option, Lee Selby is an option, but Santa Cruz and Abner Mares are fighting in October now so that rules out fighting one of them in December.

“The WBO champion Oscar Valdez is another one, but he’s fighting in September so that probably rules him out for the end of the year.

“I want to fight once more before the end of the year.

“I’ve maybe five or six fights left, that’s the sort of number I have in mind. Maybe squeeze two in this year and three next year and maybe that’s it.”

Frampton was left frustrated that Santa Cruz did not agree to fight him in Belfast this summer in a rubber match. Instead, Santa Cruz, a three-division titlist, will face fellow Mexican Abner Mares on Oct. 7 in Los Angeles and Frampton will return to the indoor arena where he established himself before winning his first world title at a purpose-built outdoor stadium nearby.

“I’m excited to be fighting back home again,” Frampton said.

“We were hoping to do it at Windsor Park and it was disappointing some fans are missing out, but to be back in Belfast is going to be great for me. You lose a bit of atmosphere when you fight outside and the Odyssey generate such a noise. I’m looking forward to it.”

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