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Carl Frampton considers his future after defeat to Josh Warrington

Josh Warrington (right) and Carl Frampton in action in the World Featherweight Championship at Manchester Arena Picture by Martin Rickett/PA Wire
From Andy Watters in Manchester

TEARS and pain at the end after the battle was lost. But not just the battle, the war is over.

Carl Frampton was a warrior and even in defeat he conducted himself like the gentleman he is but there was no fourth world title and there'll be no unification battles in the USA next year for him after defeat in Saturday night's spell-binding, ferocious, fight of the year contender against Josh Warrington.

The ‘Leeds Warrior', younger and fresher, looked hungrier and more dynamic over the 12 gruelling rounds and afterwards Frampton admitted that, at 31, he may have come to the end of the road.

Hard as it is to accept, that may be the case because there were crucial moments on Saturday night when that extra gear he needed just wasn't there. The magic, that split-second speed with hands and feet that had set him apart from the rest in the ring, had gone. Maybe it isn't coming back?

“I have a young family at home,” he said.

“I've been in the game a long time and that was a hard fight. I won't make a decision now, I'll sit down with my team and figure out the next move.”

Frampton, thought to be the bigger puncher, could not keep Warrington at bay nor put a real dent in the relentless defending champion at the Manchester Arena.

There have been some great nights for Frampton on home soil but the atmosphere when the fighters came to the ring on Saturday night was on another level – surely the best of his career.

It was spine-tingling and electric and with the Leeds United anthem ‘Maaaaaaarching onnnnn together' still ringing in his ears, Warrington fed off it. Frampton unwisely joined him in a war over the first two rounds that sapped the strength from ‘the Jackal' and ripped his gameplan to shreds.

From then on, Frampton was chasing the fight and that is not his game. There were moments here and there – particularly in the eighth round – when he looked like he might fight his way back into it. But he couldn't summon the energy to turn the tide and Warrington would not be stopped.

What is next for Frampton? He has been a unified world champion at super-bantam and became only the second two-weight champion from Ireland when he took the featherweight title off Leo Santa Cruz in New York in the summer of 2016. That win looks likely to have been the zenith of his remarkable career.

There are few options at featherweight for him now and moving up to super-feather without a world title to trade with to mix it with the likes of Gervonta Davis and Tevin Farmer seems like asking a lot. Those are the fights he wants because dropping down a level doesn't interest him.

Frampton, battered emotionally and physically, wasn't able to attend the post-fight press conference but he did pay a typically generous tribute to Warrington who had once again made a nonsense of his underdog status.

“There's absolutely no excuses for me,” said Frampton.

“I was in cracking shape coming into this fight and the better man won, simple as that.

“I hope he goes on to unify, his whole team are all decent people. It wasn't my night – I was fit and strong but Josh was fitter and stronger.”

He added: “I was hurt a number of times.

“Whoever said that Josh can't punch doesn't know what they're talking about. He is a quality fighter, I didn't underestimate him but he's even better than I thought. He's clever, he had a good gameplan, he's fit, he's tough, he has it all and he can punch hard.”

l Further coverage of Saturday's Manchester card p50-51

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