Frampton eager to sharpen skills so he can rule the world again
When you have been to the mountain top everywhere else must seem like the distant foothills and that seemed to be the abiding emotion of Carl Frampton after his night's work against Horacio Garcia.
Never mind that he can he had just come through the worst year of his career, changing trainer and promoter only three months ago having lost his World featherweight title in January, Frampton could only take a modicum of satisfaction from outpointing tough Mexican Garcia (98-93, 97-93, 96-93). On my card, he won six rounds, lost three and drew one.
With a nod to the bruising around his face and the little scars from which some blood had trickled during the competitive 10 rounder at the SSE Arena, Frampton harshly commented: "I thought it was a mediocre performance. I expect more from myself -- but the fans enjoyed it, they got value for money."
Pleasing his adoring supporters - who once again created an atmosphere unrivaled anywhere else in the UK on Saturday night - has always sat passionately within his boxing heart and so it proved during moments when bravado should have been silenced by the voice of boxing reason.
Frampton had set out the blueprint for victory over a game but fringe world class fighter when tattooing Garcia with sharp one-twos before pivoting away and admiring his work but then slowly found himself sucked into close quarters attrition. The dancing feet disappeared and he was too often found against the ropes trading where the Mexican felt most comfortable.
Allowing Garcia to dictate the manner of the combat in rounds six through to nine was not something he could be happy with. But, as with the majority of fighters who spend a lengthy period away from the ring, the body has to find the rhythm again for fighting at a high level over a sustained period.
A slip in the seventh round was ruled a knockdown by referee Victor Loughlin as Garcia took advantage by clipping the 30-year-old as he fell to the canvas. Despite the pressure of the Mexican, supported at ringside by boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez, Frampton never looked flustered - just that 20 per cent less than he has shown in the past, which needs to be seen when he makes an expected return to the ring in late March.
"I needed a fight desperately after the year I've had. It was a good fight for the crowd. I think people enjoyed it. I did some good things but I also got dragged into his fight and did some bad things. I made some mistakes, mistakes that I'll rectify the next time," said Frampton.
"The first four rounds I was cruising and then got dragged into his plan. The ring was a bit wet and me being silly, I got new boots and I had only worn them twice, I should have broken them in more. In fairness to Victor Loughlin after I slipped, he caught me so that's a knockdown.
"It wasn't an easy fight but that's what I wanted though I can't remember the last time I stopped someone, so I'm due one.
"I think I would have had to hit him with a sledgehammer to knock him over… the thing is that I have a big target on my back because I'm the meal ticket to the big time for everyone in the featherweight division so for him that was his world title fight.
"Also, I suppose I wanted to please the fans. They're unbelievable. There was one point when they were singing 'it's the Ulster boys making all the noise' that I got goosebumps because it was the loudest I had ever heard the arena."
While it seems more likely that he will return for a non-title bout before moving on to a championship encounter, Frampton insists that he would not turn a shot at one of the champions if it came his way early in 2018.
"Now that I've got the rust off I would be happy to face one of the big boys. Who knows what will happen next because the boxing landscape is changing all the time but I'm ready for a world title," he added.
"It seems that Lee Selby the IBF champion will fight his mandatory challenger Josh Warrington in the Spring and Leo Santa Cruz is fighting Abner Mares though those fights are yet to be officially made. If I had to sit on the sidelines and bring one of the world champions to Belfast then great but if the chance comes before then I'd take it.
"I'm not sure what is happening with the WBC title. Gary Russell is the champion but I'm hearing whispers that he could be moving up. I'm the number one in the WBC so if that happened I could fight for the vacant title."
As he prepares to enjoy a charity trip with Trocaire to Kenya next week followed by a relaxing Christmas, Frampton wanted to hammer home the point that he is coming for the best in the world in 2018.
"The top guys now know that I'm back. That was a hard night but I enjoy these fights.
"I'm sitting here with a busted up face but I enjoy it. I don't know what that is, a lot of boxers probably feel the same.
"Since I turned pro in 2009 I'm enjoying this sport more than I ever have. I've got good people around me and I'm in a happy place."
Now all he needs is another night to sharpen his skills to the point when he is ready to reach the summit come next summer.