Carl Frampton is prepared to vacate the WBA and IBF super-bantamweight titles in order to take on Mexican star Leo Santa Cruz for his WBA featherweight belt in a blockbuster fight this summer, according to Sky sources.
Frampton's management, Cyclone Promotions, are locked in discussions with Santa Cruz's manager Al Haymon – who sent a representative to Manchester to watch the Belfast native from ringside last month – and talks are said to be progressing well.
Santa Cruz is a three-weight world champion and the prospect of fighting him at 126 pounds is understood to be Frampton's preferred option at this stage in his career.
The main issue yet to be decided is where the potential fight with Santa Cruz will take place, with options in the UK and United States under consideration.
There would be huge demand for an outdoor fight this summer in Belfast, although Frampton told Sky Sports News HQ in the aftermath of his victory over Scott Quigg last month he had a desire to fight in America, with New York and Boston possible host cities that interested him.
Frampton beat Quigg on Sky Sports Box Office two weeks ago by split decision, although the fight was considered by many to be a more comfortable win than the scorecards suggested. Whilst Quigg immediately called for the chance to fight Frampton again, the Ulsterman was left with little appetite for a rematch and is now targeting Santa Cruz's belt at a higher weight.
Frampton called Santa Cruz out on Twitter hours after both men had won their fights on February 29, tweeting "Well done to Leo Santa Cruz and commiserations to my friend Kiko Martinez. Fancy a summer showdown %u202A@leosantacruz2? I'm ready". Santa Cruz responded in kind by calling out Frampton, and the pair look set to get their wish.
Last week, the WBA ordered Frampton to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux by July 27 to avoid being stripped of their version of the super-bantamweight belt. However, in the post-fight press conference in Manchester, Frampton's manager Barry McGuigan appeared to rule out the Cuban as a possible opponent, saying: "He's amazing on the back foot but he's negative. What do we gain by fighting him?"
The governing body says unbeaten Rigondeaux's "impressive record and accomplishments" mean that he must be Frampton's next opponent.
Rigondeaux's fight against Jazza Dickens in Liverpool on Saturday was cancelled this week due to visa problems meaning he is now available to fight, although it is almost impossible that Frampton would be able to fight both men before the end of the summer.
Meanwhile, Frampton also faces the prospect of having to fight Shingo Wake, as a mandatory defence of his IBF belt, which he has held since beating Martinez in September 2014.
Another option for both Frampton and Santa Cruz was to fight IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby, although the Welshman has now committed to defending his belt against mandatory challenger Eric Hunter on April 9, as part of the undercard for Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight clash with Charles Martin, also on Sky Sports Box Office.