Boxing

Carl Frampton's five of the best: Golden memories of a man who remained unaffected by his superstar status

Carl Frampton (right) and Scott Quigg during their IBF & WBA World Super-Bantamweight Championship bout at Manchester Arena in 2016
Andy Watters

EVERYONE will have their own favourite Carl Frampton fight and so many of us have our own unique Frampton experience because of a chance meeting with the personable and approachable boxer who remained totally unaffected by his global stardom.

Frampton’s career caught fire when he beat Kiko Martinez to win the European super-bantamweight title and, with Barry McGuigan at his side and Shane McGuigan in his corner, it was a rollercoaster ride from there until the win over Leo Santa Cruz in Brooklyn, New York three years later.

That win at the Barclays Center was the pinnacle and, although Frampton was never quite able to recapture the magic of the glory years from 2013 to 2016, he leaves us with some unforgettable highlights to treasure.

The atmosphere at his fight with Josh Warrington was the best I’ve ever experienced at a sporting event. Frampton didn’t get the win that night but these are my five favourite Carl Frampton victories.

Frampton v Santa Cruz I (WBA featherweight title, Barclays Centre New York, July 30, 2016)

FRAMPTON’S stand-out career performance was an unforgettable ‘rock-em, sock-em’ barn-burner.

He went into the fight, against three-weight world champion Santa Cruz as the underdog, but ripped the WBA belt out of the Mexican’s grip by meeting him in the centre of the Brooklyn ring and out-smarting and out-fighting him over 12 absorbing rounds. He took the win on majority decision (one judge had it a draw) to become Ireland’s second two-weight world champion after Steve Collins and the first from the north.

Frampton said: “It was a brilliant fight. I was a big underdog in the fight because it was my first fight moving up to the featherweight division and I wasn’t expected to win. I brought a decent amount of travelling support and obviously the Irish Americans came out to support me.

“I knew I had to try and match him for workrate but land the better shots and I did that, I landed the cleaner shots and I won the fight. I was delighted with my performance and becoming a two-weight world champion. It was an amazing night.”

Frampton v Martinez II (IBF super-bantamweight title, Titanic Slipway Belfast, September 6, 2014) THE wind whistled through the purpose-built arena from the Irish Sea and Frampton blew Martinez away in a 12-round pin-point counter-punching masterclass to become world champion. This was a repeat of their EBU meeting the previous year and Martinez had to take four shots to land one of his own. Frampton, who won the first fight by stoppage, controlled the distance and his timing was superb. He had Martinez down in the fifth and was the clear winner on points at the finish.

“There was more pressure on me in that fight than there’s ever been,” he says.

“I’d already beaten him in a European title fight and people just see the result – KO round nine – they don’t remember how hard a fight it was up until that fight and they just expected me to beat him.

“The setting was amazing down at the Slipway, you could actually see Tigers Bay off in the distance! It was an ideal place for me to have a fight. Everybody expected me to win but I knew it was going to be tough. I think I put in a brilliant performance that night as well and beat a very good Kiko Martinez too.

“I was over the moon with that one and it was my first world title as well – it was a dream come true.”

Frampton v Quigg (WBC & IBF super-bantamweight world titles, MEN Arena, Manchester, February 27, 2016)

AN intimidated Scott Quigg had done his fair share of talking in the build-up but he froze on the night and couldn’t get out of his shell until it was too late. By then Frampton had broken the Bury fighter’s jaw with a pulverising uppercut and he was way ahead on points and in complete control of the fight. With the cavernous MEN Arena packed with joyous travelling fans, Frampton took the win on split decision (how one judge went for Quigg remains a mystery) to unify the bantamweight titles. “It was one of my biggest wins although it wasn’t the best fight in the world to watch,” says Frampton.

“I was winning rounds by doing very little so I just continued to do that. People say: ‘If Quigg had started earlier he would have won the fight’ and he might have won the 10th and 11th but I won the 12th round – it was probably my best round of the fight. He might have got knocked out if he started coming out earlier.”

Frampton v Gonzalez jnr (IBF Super-Bantamweight title, Don Haskins Center, El Paso, July 18, 2015)

FRAMPTON had to get off the Texas canvas twice – in the first round – to beat game Mexican Gonzalez. Fans watched the fight live on ITV and had their hearts in their mouths as Gonzalez caught Frampton cold before the Jackal, who’d never been dropped and had gone into the fight with five stoppage wins in his previous six, regained his composure and boxed his way to a convincing points win.

Frampton says: “I was looking at this kid walking about the hotel expecting to blow him away and he dropped me twice in the first round! I suppose I kept my cool and pretty much won every round after that and got back to boxing.

“I was struggling with the weight then. Ideally I probably would have moved up after that fight but the Quigg fight was still being talked about.

“Quigg only wanted to fight me because I got dropped in that fight and it was the same for Leo Santa Cruz. People forget that after I beat Hugo Cazares I was his mandatory for the WBC super-bantamweight title and he didn’t want to fight.

“Both of those fights – Quigg and Santa Cruz – happened because I was dropped in El Paso. Sadly that poor kid Alejandro Gonzalez is no longer with us.”

Frampton v Donaire (Interim WBO featherweight title, SSE Arena Belfast, April 21, 2018)

FORMER bantam, super-bantam and featherweight king Donaire arrived in Belfast determined to prove that he was still a force at elite level and he did so, pushing Frampton – back in the groove with Jamie Moore after an acrimonious split from Barry and Shane McGuigan and the Cyclone Promotions team – all the way at the SSE Arena.

Frampton looked sharp and nailed the ‘Filipino Flash’ with powerful back hands and left hooks and, although he was caught clean late on, he took a unanimous decision on the scorecards.

“That win probably ages better after seeing what he’s gone on to do in the Super Series (beating luckless Ryan Burnett in the final) and giving (Naoya) Inoue the fight that he did,” says Frampton.

“I said he’d give Inoue (the Japanese ‘Monster’ won on points) a fight and people were laughing at me for giving Donaire a chance.

“I thought it would turn out to be a very close fight which it turned out to be.

“Beating Donaire was a great win for me. I needed to be switched on, it was one of those fights when you’re fighting a living legend who’s got serious power so I had to switched on from start to finish and I was, even though I got nailed in the 11th round.

“He hurt me but I was just too big for him. I was a fully-fledged featherweight and Donaire was coming up from super-bantamweight.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access