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Carl Frampton win: Elation and pain for new IBF world champion

BY STEVE BUNCE

Carl Frampton could not shake hands with the fans who waited outside the Europa Hotel in sunny Belfast on Sunday morning to catch a glimpse of the new IBF super-bantamweight world champion.

The night before, more than 16,000 people suffered  through every second of the 12-round fight against Kiko Martinez that ended in victory and tears for Frampton inside the purpose-built arena in the city’s Titanic Quarter.

The elation and relief in the ring when Frampton’s hand was raised was testimony to the journey the boxer, his trainer Shane McGuigan and promoter and friend Barry McGuigan have been on for the last five years.

It was the type of fight that leaves behind a vivid map of the pain on the face and body of both boxers, a reminder of the sport’s ability to make its very best go through excessive barriers on the way to both glory and loss.

When Frampton emerged on Sunday, his daughter Carla once again by his side, his left hand was swollen, his right sore, his eyebrows covered in stitches, his cheeks lost under dark bruising and his smile painful. The final fans from the emotional night, their eyes wide with wonder, placed their arms tenderly on Frampton’s sore shoulders as they beamed for the camera.

In the ring and under an ominous canopy of black wintery weather, Frampton was masterful, quite brilliant at times. He made Martinez, who was making his third defence, look flat and short on ideas, which he is not.

In round five a perfect counter, a punch perfected in the gym mirrors at the McGuigan academy in Battersea, dropped Martinez and the celebrations started. It was, however, too early to shout.

The Spaniard delved into his reserves, stayed with Frampton in close, slashing vicious short hooks to head and battered body, and had a good few rounds as his punches changed the local man’s face.

Both were bleeding from cuts going into the last two rounds and with Frampton in front, but showing signs and scars from the relentless conflict, there was a collective desire for him to “move”, “float” and “don’t get involved”. Frampton listens to a different voice and was pleased to be waved in to fight by Martinez.

The final bell was just the decent side of midnight and everybody knew that Frampton, who beat Martinez last year, had done it again and this time a world title belt was the prize. His exhaustion was suspended as his hand was raised and his future secured.

Frampton joins his mentor McGuigan as both a world champion and a tiny icon in the fabled fighting city, a twin accolade left vacant since Barry’s last world title fight in Belfast 29 years ago. “He’s better than I ever was,” said McGuigan.

Frampton is 27, the win was his 19th in a pro career that began after a long amateur run, and the hand injury will now keep him out of the ring until early next year. He needs a break from the fighting, from the pressure of officially being declared a tourist attraction in Belfast, which he handles like a slick politician in public, and some time to let his bruised body heal naturally.

There are natural and some unnatural contenders waiting for an invite to the Frampton party and, governing bodies aside, they should all be made to wait.

Right now Frampton has an instant mandatory situation with the IBF to overcome with an unknown fighter from California called Chris Avalos and there is bold talk once again of a domestic fight against Scott Quigg, the Bury fighter, who holds a portion of another belt, issued by a governing body that has three world champions at each weight.

Quigg is a fight that could be made if sense prevails but if Avalos, a nice enough professional with a decent record, was paid with the money from the tickets he sold, he would make about three quid each fight. Boxing is a business and the IBF needs to think about any attempts to strong-arm Frampton into any type of mandatory madness.

On Sunday the little hero just needed a rest, some time to let his remarkable win settle, before thinking about the future. “You know me, I will fight anybody,” he said. He will and that is what the people like about him.

Further reading

Frampton wants Quigg showdown

Confident Carl Frampton ahead of Belfast clash with Kiko Martinez

Even Belfast weigh-in attracted big, excited crowd

Day of the Jackal: profile of Carl Frampton

'No one cares what religion he is... he's a champ'

'We're so proud of him, he's a great ambassador for us'

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