Barry McGuigan hurting but Carl Frampton's honour after loss a source of great pride
Barry McGuigan's ashen face said it all as the man he describes as "another son" had just been beaten for the first time, losing his WBA World featherweight title.
Manager McGuigan will not waste any time in seeking to tie up the third fight between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz while also aiming to release the hurt of having seen his protégé dethroned in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas after 12 hard rounds.
At ringside, McGuigan was on his feet throughout the 12 rounds screaming encouragement but by the end he sensed that the WBA World featherweight title that he once owned had slipped away from Frampton's grasp in the desert city where he lost his own crown to a fighter named Cruz in 1986.
Having guided the Jackal to become a two-weight World champion, the first man from Northern Ireland to achieve such a feat, the loss in the early hours of Sunday morning was very hard to take.
"I feel the pain for him because he's very close to me and it's our first defeat. It's terrible… what do you say? It'll be alright? Of course it won't be alright. He lost, it feels bad," said McGuigan.
"We are all so disappointed because it was another phenomenal fight and razor-sharp close. It was a thin decision, a very close decision. He knows he didn't box very well. He let it slip away from him. I thought Santa Cruz won it by about two rounds.
"Frampton didn't lose anything. He lost the decision, but he was incredible and courageous. He was just a little sluggish and not as sharp as normal and that made the difference. It was a bad start.
"It was a bit like the opposite of what happened in the first round. Carl wobbled him and only for the ropes it would have been a knockdown. He started badly then and fought back just like Carl did
"It was very narrow. I was worried half way through it that it was starting to slip away. You have to be honest about these things, and everybody loses. It is how you come back that matters.
"We want him to fight us again, we want him to come to Belfast. He said he would come to Belfast. He said he would be honourable and I think he is an honourable man."
McGuigan also pointed to the honour and courage of Frampton, who was magnanimous in defeat at the hands of his great rival.
"Carl's an honest man and that tells you all you need to know about him. He didn't make any excuses. He said we had a brilliant camp. He was sluggish to begin with and because he was sluggish we were chasing," he said.
"He suddenly had to become an attacking fighter and that is not his best game but he is getting better at it.
"Leo Santa Cruz is an exceptional talent. You do need an opponent that brings the best out of you, and they do bring the best out of each other.
"He was terrifically brave, he didn't give himself an easy job when he started off the way he did but he pulled it back and look at the way he finished off at the end. I don't know how you feel but that is one of the fights of the year already and we are only in January."
As for completing the trilogy, McGuigan is confident that it will happen and is hoping to secure a date this summer.
"The ball is in Santa Cruz's court. The money is a factor, but there is every bit as much money on offer if we fight in Belfast, if we fill the place with 25,000 people. Carl's had four fights away from home. He's 29 and he wants to fight at home," he added.
"I don't want to hear any excuses. Santa Cruz said he would do it, so I want him to be decent. We were decent with him, honest. We said we lost marginally. Carl said that and I agree. We've done it twice over here, and it makes sense for Santa Cruz as well to come to Belfast."
Meanwhile, McGuigan's next rising star Josh Taylor, the Commonwealth super-lightweight champion, enjoyed a points win over Alfonso Olvera on the undercard of Frampton-Santa Cruz which also saw Mikey Garcia become a three-weight World champion when lifting the WBC lightweight belt.