Comment: Carl Frampton's trademark swagger is back and he's out to rule the world again
The ring entrance music may have been a let-down for Carl Frampton but when it came to trading leather he was pitch perfect on Saturday night.
The former world champion came into this duel against Nonito Donaire with a point or two that needed to be made. Doubts over his skills and freshness to still campaign at the highest level were circling with vulture-like intensity, but 12 rounds of quality combat in the SSE Arena exploded any such suggestion as he lifted the WBO interim featherweight title after all three judges scored it 117-111 in his favour.
The Frampton swagger was back, in the face of a four-weight world champion slightly past his best but still with enough ammunition in his left hand to do serious damage to any featherweight in the world.
The 31-year-old Belfast man became all too aware of that in the 11th round when he stumbled from a punch that would have felled many.
Frampton's world-class chin was on display as was the balletic footwork which had only been seen for half of his return to the ring against Horacio Garcia in the same venue six months ago. Allied to that was sharp combination punching and, most tellingly, the required intense discipline if he is to once more call himself world champion.
"I feel I proved a point to the doubters because of the way I boxed. I didn't need to be too flash. I feel that I'm back to my best," said Frampton.
"It may not have been the most exciting fight but I stuck to the game plan which we had worked on right from the start of camp to the end and carried out very well. A lot of credit has to go to my coach Jamie Moore.
"The plan was to box from the outside, use my jab which was brilliant tonight and then when I got close stay close, and the only time when I got caught in the middle distance was when he tagged me and hurt me in the 11th round but I've been hurt worse than that.
"I felt really good and fresh the whole way through. Donaire is a really dangerous counter puncher but I felt that my jab and distance really controlled things. I could see what he was trying to do, he was trying to nail me with the right hand but my focus was spot on and it was up there as one of my better performances.
"I could see in his face that I was hurting him. I hurt him to the body. He nailed me with a good body shot in the first round. He was dangerous when I was pushing him back. The plan was to do that and keep him off balance. I knew I had to be disciplined."
The only issue that had irked was when the lights went down and he was preparing to make his way to the ring only to find the music he had chosen was not being played.
"The song I was meant to come into was 'Something inside so strong'. I was being a bit of a brat because I said 'I'm not going until the right music comes on'.
"I was ready to stand there for an hour but the right music wasn't there so I had to go. It disrupted me a little bit but it didn't matter, it was an honest mistake," added Frampton.
When he did finally start to exchange with Donaire, it was clear from the start that this was going to be a performance for all the Jackal Army to savour. The Filipino was to true to his word, he came to engage and cause an upset but was often left falling short as Frampton skipped out of range and within the blink of an eye was in range to do his own damage.
A close quarter exchange in a neutral corner opened the second round with Frampton dominating it as he landed a rapier right hand, which led to a large welt underneath Donaire's left eye. The Jackal bossed the remainder of the round and the next two with that piston-like jab, learned in the Midland amateur club under the guidance of Billy McKee.
Both men were tagged with heavy blows midway through the seventh. As they traded in Donaire's corner, the four-weight champion was hurt by a stinging burst before returning the compliment as he halted the Belfast man in his tracks with a right hand only to be demoralised by Frampton's resolve and tenacious riposte which had the crowd roaring their approval.
From then until late in the 11th round when Donaire detonated that wicked left hand, Frampton chalked up the rounds from distance and in the 12th found himself outworked but the job had been done, the doubters silenced.
It was time to look ahead to what Frampton regards as the biggest night of his career, a world title showdown at Windsor Park - and also to reflect on the man who was the ideal foil for a display within which we saw all the attributes that go towards making the Jackal such a special fighter.
"Nonito's a great guy, a genuine lovely guy. I respected him before the fight but it just went up a notch," said Frampton.
"I knew he was a great fighter. He didn't do anything to surprise me. I knew I couldn't switch off for a moment against him.
"People think that because of my stature I'm a natural slugger but I can box - that's what I'm best at and I showed that.
"You know they talk about a happy fighter being a dangerous fighter and I'm the happiest I've ever been.
"The boys I'm training with are great, I'm enjoying working with Jamie and I have a fresh new mindset so everything is going very well."
One constant is the passionate support that continues to flow down from the stands in the Jackal's Den.
"The fans are brilliant. I believe they're second to none - they're the best in the world and now we're all going to Windsor Park which is just amazing," said Frampton.
The world has been put on notice; the little man from Belfast is once more reaching out to rule with ice in his veins and fire in the belly - all with a sinister contentment.