Carl Frampton hopeful of completing Leo Santa Cruz trilogy

Carl Frampton throws a left at Leo Santa Cruz during their fight in January 2017. JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Carl Frampton remains driven by the dream of fighting Leo Santa Cruz at Belfast's Windsor Park in May or June.

With the score 1-1, Frampton (23-1,14 KOs) wants to complete a trilogy of fights with WBA featherweight titleholder Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs), who knocked out American Chris Avalos on Oct. 14 to set up a rematch with his Mexican rival Abner Mares in early 2018.

The Northern Ireland featherweight will have to first get past another Mexican, Horacio Garcia (33-3-1, 24 KOs), in a non-title bout at the SSE Arena in his home city of Belfast Saturday to stay on course to meet one of the division's four titleholders.

Frampton lost a majority decision (115-113, 115-113 and 114-114) to Santa Cruz in a Las Vegas rematch on Jan. 28 after beating him for the WBA belt in Brooklyn on July 30, 2016.

The 30-year-old hopes to face Santa Cruz next summer but there is also the possibility of a meeting with either Wales' Lee Selby (25-1, 9 KOs), the IBF world featherweight champion, and England's Josh Warrington (26-0, 6 KOs) or America's Gary Russell Jr (28-1, 17 KOs) and Mexico's Oscar Valdez (23-0, 19 KOs) -- the WBC and WBO titleholders respectively.

"There are so many big fights -- even guys without belts -- and there are about seven or eight guys I'd be happy to fight," Frampton told ESPN.

"The main one I want is Leo Santa Cruz, it's one each between us and I'd love him to come this side of the Pond but I doubt he will.

"So he is someone I want to fight, Selby again, him and Warrington are going to fight, but at this point in time I'd be confident Selby would win that fight and I'd be happy to fight the winner."

Frampton, who unified the world super-bantamweight titles in February 2016, wanted to fight Santa Cruz at Windsor Park -- home of the Northern Ireland football team -- last summer.

Instead, he was scheduled to meet Andres Gutierrez at the smaller SSE Arena in Belfast on July 29, but the Mexican injured himself slipping in the shower of his hotel room and the fight was scrapped at less than 24 hours' notice.

Frampton ended the summer by splitting with promoter Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan, before teaming up with Manchester-based trainer Jamie Moore.

Northern Ireland's two-weight world champion told ESPN in July he had "maybe five or six fights left" -- but says those retirement plans have now been pushed back after feeling re-energised by his move to Moore's gym.

"All I spoke about was retiring, 'I can't wait to hit 32 and pack it in', 'I'm not going to box a day over 32' and 'blah blah blah'," Frampton continued.

"I'm not even thinking that now, it's on the back burner and I'm genuinely enjoying boxing again now, I'm enjoying myself around the gym.

"At this point in time that's the last thing in my mind. I'm not going to carry on into my 40s but I've extended that 32."

While Frampton is no longer looking for an exit strategy, he does feel retired boxers should have more support.

"There probably isn't enough aftercare from boxing for its fighters and that's something to do with promoters and managers," he added.

"You see it so many times, guys who are best friends with their promoters while they are winning and making money for everyone, they're enjoying themselves, then they have a bad night and a loss and that's them on the scrapheap.

"Then they don't hear from their managers or promoters, or see them ever again.

"It's a hard game and you have to put your whole life into it, so myself included and other guys, we don't have anything to fall back on if the boxing doesn't work out because we have put everything we know and have had into boxing.

"I was okay at school but I don't have GCSEs [qualifications] or a trade behind me.

"So it's important fighters are looked after when their careers are over and not just thrown on the scrapheap.

"That can be something managers and promoters can help fighters with."