Carl Frampton: What a day for The Jackal
Published 05/04/2014 | 12:28
They had come to salute their hero and long before Carl Frampton made his ring entrance everyone was made aware that on these nights the Odyssey Arena is rightly considered the Jackal's Den.
Not since Frampton's manager and Cyclone Promotions CEO Barry McGuigan strode the Belfast boxing stage has there been such intense support for a local fighter, but now the iconic King's Hall has been replaced by the modern cauldron of the Odyssey.
Just as the whole community came out to support McGuigan in his rise to world glory, now 9,000 had come to witness Frampton take the final step to his dream chance of a showdown with WBC super-bantamweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz and he duly delivered in emphatic fashion with a second round knockout.
While the undercard fighters such as Jamie Conlan were inside furthering their careers - the little Belfast man winning a WBO European super-flyweight title – the majority of the fans were finding their voice until the clock ticked around to 10pm and it was time to welcome the Jackal and leave Mexican opponent Hugo Cazares in no doubt that he was in alien territory.
The cries of "there's only one Carl Frampton" started to reverberate around the arena and they were only brought to a halt when the fans joined in with the pre-fight entertainment blurring out – Sweet Caroline and Alice the crowd favourites.
Then the lights went down, Frampton's wife Christine sat up straight in the knowledge that her man was now very close to his date with destiny and it was time for battle hardened warrior Cazares to make his way to the ring.
The tagline for the show was 'This is Belfast' and suddenly 36-year-old Cazares was all too aware he was truly the enemy within.
The Mexican has been on foreign soil on numerous occasions before, but Japan and Panama could not have prepared him for the deafening support for Frampton and in equal measure the intimidation flowing down from every corner.
As Cazares walked around the ring gathering himself for the challenge ahead, the crowd raised the decibel level to new heights, the Odyssey's foundations shook and MC Craig Stephen had to admit defeat as his voice became lost in the cacophony. It was Jackal time.
Making his way to the ring without the usual gown, Frampton – flanked by close friend and Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes – looked every inch the gladiator ready for the unforgiving ring of combat. Wife Christine, along with, among others Nicky Byrne from Westlife, David Healy and Joe Swail roared him into the ring, while old amateur mentor Billy McKee calmly applauded with the sage-like knowledge that the 27-year-old was ready.
Frampton hailed the crowd and just when you thought it couldn't get any louder, 18,000 ear drums were all at risk of splitting open. It was a reminder that these nights are special and Northern Ireland must savour them while we can.
Frampton prowled the ring for a moment, rinsed his mouth one more time, wiped away a smattering of sweat from his nose and then allowed coach Shane McGuigan to insert his gumshield. Both men were then called to the centre for the obligatory chat from the referee.
Now Christine, dressed in black, looked a little more pensive, not only was her Jackal putting his world title credentials on the line, but also his own life once again so she and daughter Carla could live a better one.
The first bell sounded to yet another crescendo and Frampton approached Cazares with his usual composure, while all around him was, in stark contrast, like a scene from Zulu.
Frampton didn't waste much time as he pressed the Mexican, the energy he exuded making Cazares cautious from the start, while every punch whether it landed or not was greeted with a huge roar.
At ringside manager McGuigan was roaring his instructions amid the din, while Frampton locked his sights on Cazares, waiting to do serious damage. You could sense that it was coming though not even the most ardent Jackal supporter expected a crunching left hook to shudder every sinew in the Mexican's face.
As he sat on one knee, Frampton waited, poised to go in to finish the job, but then realised that one explosive blow was enough. It was supposed to be his toughest test and he had just passed it with ease.
When Christine had settled down she quickly showed a friend the photo she had caught of her husband's celebration. Together they are living the dream.
Next stop the world.