Carl Frampton lets boxing world know he's ready after victory over Jeremy Parodi
With a bruised smile Jeremy Parodi pointed to the spot where Carl Frampton almost permanently dislodged his liver and then shook his head in disbelief at what had just happened an hour earlier in Belfast's new boxing coliseum.
"He took everything away from me and it was only when I got up that I felt the pain. I have never been hit like that. I knew about his power but when you are in there ... ," he said before squeezing out another smile of resignation.
Down the hallway in the bowels of the Odyssey Arena, Frampton was also wearing the scars of battle, mainly on his two potent weapons which were being dipped in an ice bucket to quell the swelling generated by the relentless pounding he had just handed out on a forlorn Frenchman.
Speaking to the likeable Parodi earlier in the week he appeared a man willing to wound but frightened to strike and that was compounded 10-fold when he walked into the first spiteful blow from Northern Ireland's most exciting sports star.
At 2:59 of the sixth round the 9,000 sell-out crowd at the Odyssey were given the finishing touch to a masterful boxing display by their European super-bantamweight champion when a left hook travelled inches and sent ripples through Parodi's body and the whole super-bantamweight division.
Parodi's corner begged him to get up. His mind said yes but his body was in lockdown. Then, he rose – well after the count – and creased up in pain, while Frampton saluted his followers and then in a moment of quasi-eccentricity coach Shane and manager Barry McGuigan joined the champion in a victory dance.
It was that kind of night, an evening to celebrate a special talent, a role model and a man it seems destined to become a world champion.
Those who came out to witness the event amassed a crowd not seen at a boxing venue in Belfast since the night Irish boxing legends Johnny Caldwell and Freddie Gilroy tore into each other like alley cats on October 20, 1962 at the King's Hall when an estimated 11,000 were packed in for their grudge fight. Seating restrictions would later curtail the number allowed in during the hey-day of former world champion McGuigan to around 8,000.
It wasn't just the fans who were enveloped by the sense of occasion when Frampton made his way to the ring as the German judge at ringside looked my way and gestured that goosebumps were travelling up his arm at a rate of knots. He then cast his eye around the arena in astonishment at the frenzy of anticipation.
While Frampton was an overwhelming favourite to turn back the challenge of Parodi in his first defence of the European belt won back in February with a knockout of Kiko Martinez, he was now handling more expectation than ever before and true to his word in the lead-up to Saturday night, the 26-year-old embraced it and delivered a punch-perfect performance.
Parodi would leave the arena with his reputation as a homme de courage heightened by virtue of being able to ship heavy blows from the opening bell as Frampton went to work from every angle.
Moment by moment and roar by roar from the stands the Jackal broke down his prey with ease, snapping back Parodi's head with rapier right hands and then in the fourth he unleashed a bombardment that signalled the end was nigh.
Parodi winced from a double left hook to the body, reeled from a right-hand and Frampton – with his eyes venomously focused on his target – rammed home a succession of blows which would have floored lesser men.
The French resistance was now on the wane and Frampton gave us an example of his improvement at close quarters when he sailed home a three-punch body assault followed later in the fifth with a blood-curdling right uppercut. And somehow Parodi – who had never been stopped or knocked down in 37 fights – remained on his feet.
But then late in the sixth Frampton uncorked that special left hook – reminiscent of his mentor McGuigan used to dismantle opponents in the 1980s – and Parodi's challenge was at an end.
"I'm the hardest punching super-bantamweight in the world," roared Frampton at his adoring public who know that only the absolute elite can now offer him a true test of his ability.
As the hordes filed out of the Odyssey Arena, there was an overwhelming sense that occasions like these should be treasured because the boy from Tiger's Bay had just given everyone a glimpse of the potential for nights to come that only happen once in a generation.