The prospect of Belfast hosting the keenly anticipated trilogy-deciding clash between Northern Ireland boxing favourite Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz now looks doubtful after the current WBA featherweight champion relayed his father and trainer's fears over the potential for a controversial hometown decision.
Former unified super-bantamweight king Frampton produced a superb performance and became the first ever Northern Irish two-weight world champion following an absorbing points victory in Brooklyn in July 2016. He travelled back across the Atlantic for a Las Vegas rematch last month and suffered the first defeat of his 24-fight professional career after another close, engrossing contest was judged as a majority decision in favour of Santa Cruz.
Frampton was quick to express his desire for a third bout and Santa Cruz appeared willing to stage the fight in his rival's hometown. However, it now appears that concerns expressed by Jose Santa Cruz could scupper those plans.
"My dad is scared that if I go over there, and even if I beat Carl Frampton, the people and the judges are going to be an influence," Leo told Villainfy Media. "No matter if I beat him, he thinks that even if I beat him I'll have the victory taken away from me.
"My dad says not to go over there, because going over there would be a really bad decision and, you know, he is right and everything. But if I go over there and I get the win and beat him, for all the fans to see that I win, that's all that matters. Hopefully they see that I win and they give me that."
In a nod to his father's influence, he added: "It's very important, he's my father, he's been there my whole life, my whole career. I always listen to my dad. If he says no, I wouldn't go there. I do whatever he tells me to do."
Frampton wants to host a third fight at Windsor Park, the redeveloped 18,500-capacity home of Linfield FC and the Northern Ireland football team. 'The Jackal' revealed last week that negotiations were at a very early stage but that his team were "slightly more optimistic" than they were immediately after the second meeting, when Santa Cruz suggested during a news conference that he has other options.
Frampton, who has not fought in front of a home crowd since his excellent fifth-round stoppage of Chris Avalos in February 2015, is adamant that his next match will be in Belfast. If that all-important tiebreaker against Santa Cruz gets put on the back burner, then Lee Selby could provide alternative opposition. The Welshman was set to defend his IBF featherweight belt for the third time on the second Frampton vs Santa Cruz undercard, only for Argentine challenger Jonathan Victor Barros to fail to meet the necessary licensing conditions.