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Shock and awe as Carl Frampton goes out on his shield

 

Bruising battle: Carl Frampton feels the full force of a Josh Warrington punch
Bruising battle: Carl Frampton feels the full force of a Josh Warrington punch
David Kelly

By David Kelly

There are few sportsmen who in defeat can find their legacy enhanced but then again as his fans have often reminded us, there's only one Carl Frampton.

On Saturday night in the Manchester Arena the 5ft 5in man of steel found himself in more adversity than ever before and still managed to strain every sinew in search of victory, gelling with IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington in a blood-curdling spectacle that left both men with roadmaps of pain blotted across their features.

The 20,000 who invested in a ticket must have felt that Christmas had come early, watching on for 45 minutes in a state of shock and awe before rising to their feet for a standing ovation that even seemed too little a reward such was the ferocity, bravery and skill that had been on display.

Make no mistake, both men left a little bit of themselves in that arena and such was the punishment suffered by the 31-year-old Belfast man that he was urinating blood, while being checked over at hospital in the early hours of yesterday morning.

It seemed churlish that immediately questions over Frampton's future were immediately raised but such is the brutal, cold nature of boxing that even the finest offering from the Noble Art must be vandalised.

Warrington had scorched his mark on proceedings with acidic attacks in the opening two rounds that set the pattern for him to triumph, a worthy winner on all three judges cards, 116-113, 116-12, 116-112.

It was in the second round that we saw Frampton's eye widen as never before, clearly stunned by the champion's onslaught, just as he had been to a lesser extent in the latter stages of the first round which led to him abandoning his natural skills and engaging in toe-to-toe combat.

As Warrington revelled in such territory, it was easy to recall the words of Frampton's mentor and amateur coach Billy McKee who said that "the hardest thing with Carl was to get him not to fight because he was always a better boxer".

The Jackal's legs stiffened to the point where it seemed he might find himself slipping to the canvas. Good, even great fighters would have found momentary solace on the canvas but Frampton stood firm even when it seemed he was wading through treacle.

"He buzzed me in the second round I just felt that I had to stand and fight and it was the same in some of the other rounds… there's no quit in me," said Frampton, who found his own mark in the fourth round when finally using his footwork and smart sling shots before slipping out of range.

By comparison to the first nine minutes this was an oasis of calm but Frampton had absorbed so much punishment that he was repeatedly drawn into the trenches in the latter stages of the majority of the remaining rounds - and all too often Warrington had the better of those close quarter exchanges.

Nevertheless, they were dragging every ounce of fight from each other, testing their will and desire and a respectful embrace at the start of the final round gave way to another captivating three minutes of combat.

Promoter Frank Warren, without a hint of hyperbole, declared: "I have been in this business for 40 years and that for me is the best title fight I have ever seen in a British ring. Two superb athletes, the sportsmanship, two world class fighters - that's what boxing is all about.

"It's going to be one of those nights that you will say 'I was there'. The fight was going out live to America on ESPN and it must be the best fight they have seen in ages. It was a better fight than Canelo-Golovkin."

Warren, who promotes both men, paid further tribute to both as he outlined a bright future for Warrington and like us all wondered just what Frampton would do next.

"It takes two to make a great fight and Carl has been a truly great British fighter when you consider what he has done at super-bantamweight and featherweight," added Warren.

"As for Josh, when he first came to me I saw something and we worked hard to get him into a position to fight Lee Selby. I fancied him to beat Selby and he did.

"I believe he is the best featherweight in the world. I would fancy him to beat Oscar Valdez and Leo Santa Cruz. He's got an incredible engine on him, who could keep up with that workrate. They were like two Mexicans in there."

It was a tearful Frampton who sat in his dressing room, the loss hitting harder than any of the copious amount of blows that battered his kidneys. A golden chance to become a world champion again had slipped away. The Jackal Army, of which there were about 6,000, felt the same as some wiped away tears when exiting into the cold Manchester air.

It may well be that the tectonic plates of his ring career are shifting him towards retirement as even the greatest of warriors find that one day the fire is finally doused. Only he will know that after reflecting on a duel in which he too often fought in a manner that suited the champion.

Nevertheless, Frampton went out on his shield - warrior spirit intact and respect from the boxing fraternity greater than ever.

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