Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Carl Frampton can feel the love

Drinking it in: the emotion is etched on the face of Carl Frampton after his win over Hugo Cazares
Drinking it in: the emotion is etched on the face of Carl Frampton after his win over Hugo Cazares

From the taxi driver, to the security guard and then the 9,000 crowd in the Odyssey Arena, Carl Frampton is feeling the love of the country.

Normally if a major fight ends in two rounds, the Northern Ireland public would be raining down a chorus of boos on the participants having felt short-changed, but they know the cut of a sporting diamond when they see one and after Frampton brutally chopped down Mexican Hugo Cazares he was greeted as such – a warrior they take can pride in.

Would those at ringside have wanted to see a little more action? Well, yes and even Frampton's manager Barry McGuigan had expected – and hoped for – a more competitive duel, but in the end the Belfast man's freakish power rendered this big test against the WBC's No.1 contender a mis-match.

His power show sent a signal to the country that we have truly entered a golden period.

Just as the old timers of the boxing fraternity recall with great fondness Gilroy-Caldwell, the exploits of John Kelly and Jimmy Brown right up to McGuigan, Dave McAuley and Wayne McCullough et al, in years to come the rise of the Jackal will stand comfortably beside such times.

Indeed, the late great Belfast Telegraph boxing correspondent Jack Magowan was always a fan of the amateur Frampton and would have loved witnessing his professional journey, just as sporting heroes David Healy, Joe Swail and Brian Magee did from ringside on Friday night.

"Carl was under so much pressure and he delivered and that's what the Northern Ireland want to see," said Healy (pictured) as he made his exit on after a night many will look back on and realise they witnessed the start of a new level for the Jackal's career.

"I don't often get starstruck, but to be in the dressing afterwards with Carl and Barry McGuigan was just incredible.

"He's a special talent."

Leading up to the fight, Cazares had calmly told me that he didn't regard Frampton as "a big hitter" and even the night before was unconvinced that the 27-year-old could cope when under pressure.

Like some other fireside critics, he wondered if Frampton had been over-protected. Cazares, like the doubters, got their answer in emphatic fashion.

Frampton is world class and in today's boxing universe with its alphabet soup of titles, he would be champion if manager McGuigan forged an agreement to face WBA title holder Scott Quigg or pursued a re-match with Kiko Martinez for the Spaniard's IBF title.

Frampton, of course, stopped Martinez 12 months ago in the same venue to win the European title before Martinez then jumped the queue and grabbed the IBF World crown, while Quigg's camp continue to suggest they want a showdown with the man who is without doubt the most exciting Northern Ireland sportsman in years.

Instead, Frampton is shooting for Leo Santa Cruz, WBC World champion and a level above Martinez and Quigg. The only man who can claim to be a notch above the Mexican is the true WBA/WBO champion, Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux – who happens to be managed by Irishman Gary Hyde.

"Once I beat Santa Cruz, he'll be the one I'll want next," said Frampton.

But for all his talent – and few in world boxing compare to his skill – Rigondeaux is unfortunately, for him nowhere near the exciting attraction or marketability of Frampton or Santa Cruz.

Hence the Belfast man and the Mexican are being lined up for a classic encounter.

Such fights are few and far between in any era and Frampton's drawing power allied to his ability makes for a special night every time he steps into an arena – just ask the 9,000 who were in a hi-octane frenzy long before the opening bell and well after they had filed out to continue their celebration of an explosive finish.

Northern Ireland sport has entered a new era and for however how long it lasts, let's enjoy the ride.

On Friday night's evidence, the Jackal nights have some way to go.

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