Carl Frampton made to work all the way as Garcia threatens to spoil comeback party
THIS was not the glorious return some Carl Frampton fans expected. It turned out to be a genuine scrap and ‘the Jackal' will be the better for it.
Instead of blasting out a starstruck journeyman, Frampton was made to work hard for this unanimous decision win against determined Horacio Garcia who came to spoil the party and had ‘the Jackal' down in the seventh (it was part slip) before Frampton recovered to boss the last quarter of the fight.
He had dominated the early stages too but a sustained assault from Garcia in the middle rounds meant Frampton had to forget about putting on a comeback show for his fans and prove he still has the art and the heart to turn a fight his way. He did both and ultimately recorded a comfortable decision win in his first fight in 10 months.
“I needed a fight desperately after the bad year that I've had and I feel like I've finished it off on a high,” said Frampton afterwards.
“It was a good fight for the crowd, I think people enjoyed it. I did good things at times and not so good things as well and I got dragged into his fight but that's what happens, the most important thing was I got my hand raised at the end.
“The kid was tough. I stayed on the ropes a bit too long at times, there were things we were trying in the gym – blocking a couple of shots and maybe after two or three start throwing. But I was letting him get a wee bit of momentum and it looked like he was doing more than what he was. There were a few mistakes but I'll rectify them in the next fight.”
Garcia began tentatively but grew in confidence and, as the fight developed, it was clear that he was determined to rip up the script, beat Frampton and take his place as a world title contender. Frampton, who chose his former sparring partner as his opponent, insisted that he wanted a test.
“It wasn't an easy fight but that's what I wanted,” he said.
“I can't remember the last time I stopped someone (Chris Avalos in February 2015) so I'm due one. Maybe the next time I'll get it?
“I stood and traded with him and I felt like I could land but I was allowing him to do his thing and it was suiting him when I was standing in the pocket. You learn and fair play to him. Matt Macklin said it: I've got a target on my back. All these kids come over and it's like I'm their world title fight.
“He's over here for a week and Canelo (Saul Alvarez who was at ringside to cheer on his fellow countryman) is over with him and he's right up for it. You'd have to hit him with a sledgehammer for him to go over.
“That's the position I'm in at the minute and I'm lucky to be in that position where all these boys are going to try their best against me.”
Frampton labeled his performance as “mediocre” because he'd been “hit too much”. Coach Jamie Moore disagreed with his assessment but accepted that his two-weight world champion had areas to work on.
“He was far from mediocre but he allowed himself to get dragged in a little,” said Moore.
“He was trying things that we'd been working on in the gym but he sat in the pocket a little bit too long and allowed Garcia to gather a bit of momentum.
“There were plusses and minuses but if he is going to be in a big fight next that (the Garcia fight) will do him no harm at all. He's been out of the ring for 10 months and making mistakes in a fight like this is far better than making mistakes in a big fight.”
He added: “He has the opportunity now to watch it back, learn from it and correct his mistakes next time.
“He's 30 years old and if the opportunity comes up for him to box for a world title next then he has to take it. He can't be hanging around and he's ready.
“But I do think that he shouldn't rush into it. If we do have to wait until the summer at Windsor Park then lets do that.
“Three or four months isn't going to make a massive amount of difference and if he gets the opportunity to have another fight in between, fix a few little things that he did wrong tonight, then that'll be even better.”
So what's next for the Jackal? There'll be a world title extravaganza at Windsor Park in the summer but he will fight in the spring and says he'll be ready for a title shot by then.
Several of the featherweight belts appear to be tied up. IBF champion Lee Selby will defend against Eduardo Ramirez next month and, if he wins, he is committed to fighting Josh Warrington next.
Elsewhere, former Frampton foe Leo Santa Cruz (WBA) has made it clear that he intends to take on Abner Mares in a rematch and Scott Quigg is waiting to meet the winner.
That leaves Oscar Valdez's WBO belt and the WBC strap, which is currently held by Gary Russell jnr but may soon be up for grabs.
“It is a potential fight,” said Frampton.
“I'm hearing whispers that he's going to move up to super-featherweight so who knows what happens there? I could either fight him or maybe a vacant title becomes available. We'll see.”
Round one: It was meals on wheels for Frampton early as Garcia shuffled forward without throwing anything and allowed him to settle. Frampton tagged him with a stinging left hook and, though Garcia replied, Frampton bossed the round. 10-9
Round two: Again Garcia was very defensive but Frampton drew him out of his shell and drilled two jab/right hand combos through his guard in quick succession. By the end of the round he was unloading right hook to the body, left to the head. 10-9
Round two: A halo of sweat fizzed off Garcia's head as Frampton landed a booming left hook followed by an even better shot off his right. It was clear that Garcia wasn't going to roll over. Frampton needed to work body more. 10-9
Round four: Close round. The fighters locked horns and traded. Frampton showed some slick skills, slipping Garcia's shots and countering. The Mexican let his hands go but Frampton's reflexes looked as sharp as ever. 10-9
Round five: Garcia kept pressing and gave as good as he got, pinning Frampton on the ropes and blazing away with both hands. Frampton ended the round cut over his left eye. Garcia's round. 9-10
Round six: Frampton in a fight now, no doubt about that. The SSE Arena get behind their man and roar him on, but Garcia uses his reach advantage and traps Frampton on the ropes again. 9-10
Round seven: Frampton in some trouble now. Again the rangy Garcia was on top and has Frampton down in his corner with the assist of a slip. 8-10
Round eight: A change of tactics from Frampton who raises his game and boxes his way out of trouble. His stick-and-move gameplan works but he looks to be tiring and trying to run the clock down. 10-9
Round nine: Fighting almost from memory, Frampton had to bite down on his gumshield and forget about putting on a comeback show for the crowd. Garcia can't match the quality of his punching. 10-9
Round 10: A strong finish from Frampton. Garcia kept coming, but the Jackal picked him off on the back foot. Didn't have it all his own way but he took the round. 10-9