(Carl Frampton, left, Kiko Martinez, right; via)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – Belfast’s Carl “The Jackal” Frampton scored the biggest win of his career last night, besting former foe Kiko Martínez over 12 terse rounds. Frampton, a wildly popular figure in these parts, battered Martínez mercilessly to claim a unanimous decision via scores of 119-108 (twice) and 118-111 and with it, a world title at junior featherweight; he also sent his army of fans home merrily, singing and chattering along the perishing cold harbour that served as backdrop to the fight.
Frampton, 19-0, 13 KOs, won virtually every round of a fiercely contested affair. Yet, while Martínez could only conceivably have been awarded the seventh, he was a constant menace; an absolute brute and a powerhouse, “La Sensación” refused to relent in the face of considerable persuasion.
Martínez, 31-5, 23 KOs, from Alicante, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain, the bullet-headed, armour-plated defending titleholder, was riding an impressive streak heading in. Seasoned and well-travelled, his previous four fights, knockout wins all, were scored on separate continents. Belfast, a city he’d boxed in twice previously, held few surprises for the Spaniard.
Despite that, the 16, 000 fans that flocked along the Titanic Slipways and into a purpose-built outdoor arena created in the shade of the resulting museum – a silver-gilded monument exploding from the pavement that is the jewel in this impressively regenerated waterfront – afforded him a hostile reunion.
Nineteen months ago, when Frampton had to weather a busted eardrum in order to turn back Martínez in the 9th round of a pulsating encounter, Belfast had booed him to the rafters. This time, their reception seemed less about trying to unsettle Martínez and more a collective stand against any suggestion he would ruin their party.
And what a party: Fans literally danced and jigged en masse as they awaited Frampton’s ring walk; men, women, chidren, pensioners swaddled in clothing. It was a wonderfully animated audience in this, a genuine fight city.
Frampton, 27, established his range quickly with his right yet he seemed to be chomping at the bit in the early stages, which caused him to hurry his work on occasion. Whenever he settled himself, though, usually as a result of taking a Martínez sledgehammer, he was able to master his rival with deftly created angles and precision punching.
The pair traded thunderous body shots in round 2 as the action ratcheted up a notch. Frampton, desperate to let go of his punches, scored with a brace of thudding counter right hooks in the third that forced the underdog to give ground. Martínez, to his credit, continued to hustle and crowd Frampton in the fourth, yet the Ulsterman is so sure-footed, he can work with distinction in tight spaces.
So good is Frampton’s balance, in fact, that whenever he missed a right hand, he was perfectly positioned to uncork a left cross — which he did with abandon in rounds 6 and 9. And even when Martínez, 28, ducked both, another right hand would come thudding home into the side of his head, as was the case in the fifth.
After opening a cut over the Spaniard’s right eye, Frampton cracked his man with a booming right that flung Martínez down onto his backside for a count. Frampton swarmed all over him once he arose — as he would do in rounds 11 and 12 –desperately searching for the knockout victory that wouldn’t come, against a rival who seemed an improved physical specimen since last they duelled.
Both men are scientifically-crafted machines; miniature representations of Samson and Goliath, the cast-iron, yellow twin gantry cranes – semi-retired now – that straddle the Harland & Woolf shipyard that provided such an astonishing setting.
The Titanic’s fascination — which has helped boost tourism in an area formerly known as Queen’s Island — lies in its symbolism, for none of us will ever make it ashore. In Frances Wilson’s book “How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J Bruce Ismay,” the author describes how Ismay, an English dandy and chairman of the International Mercantile Marine Company – who owned White Star Line, the company that commissioned the ill-fated steamer — left his beloved liner on a rescue boat, the Carpathia, yet only survived the disaster physically. Dishonoured, some say his hair turned white overnight; he left the wreckage prostrate and rigid, lying broken on the floor of his own lifeboat.
Boxing, of course, is ripe for metaphor. Fighters can gain such inexorable momentum that they, too, can appropriate an inescapable and subtle arrogance, the unshakeable ambition of an Ismay. How else to explain Martínez’s desire to return to the scene of his most harrowing defeat? The iron man from Alicante, though, suffered no such opprobrium. He was the very defintion of honour in defeat.
Frampton, the former Midland ABC man whose wife Christine and three-year-old daughter Carla were ringside (wee Carla elected to sleep through the fight aided by pink ear defenders, only awoken briefly to be informed “your Daddy was the winner”), justified his position as the 6-to-1 on favourite in emphatic fashion. Trained by Barry McGuigan’s son Shane in Battersea, London, he has grown into a world class, potentially great fighter. The Tiger’s Bay hero, who will receive no end of offers ahead of his next outing, singled out one man in particular in his post-fight interview: Bury’s Scott Quigg. The timing has never been better.
Belfast’s popular featherweight Marco McCullough, 11-1, 8 KOs, stopped Russian Dmitry Kirillov, 31-5-1, 10 KOs, at the end of eight rounds. Kirillov, physically overmatched, had taken his lumps only to see McCullough come on strong.
Dungiven middleweight Eamonn “King Kane” O’Kane, 12-1-1, 4 KOs, had a shocker against Lithuania’s Virgilijus Stapulionis, 23-3-1, 16 KOs, yet escaped with a technical draw. The visitor flattened O’Kane in the opening round with a searing right and almost ejected him over the top rope with his wild follow-up attacks. In the melee, Stapulionis suffered a horrid gash over his right eye and Marcus McDonnell called time mere seconds before the bout would have gone to the scorecards.
Belfast’s undefeated junior bantamweight Jamie Conlan, 13-0, 8 KOs, was involved in a real row with Mexico’s Jose Estrella, 14-6-1, 10 KOs. His opponent from Tijuana put in a spirited performance, hurting Conlan early and cutting him over his right eye in the fifth. Conlan, though, dug in to record a unanimous ten-round decision via scores of 97-93 (twice) and 99-92.
Coalisland’s undefeated middleweight prospect Conrad ‘Dynamite’ Cummings, 4-0, 2 KOs, meanwhile, earned a six-round decision over Poland’s Robert Talarek, 7-7-2, 3 KOs, in what turned out to be a decent learning fight.