There’s only one possible place to start this week. The Odyssey Arena in Belfast was packed to capacity on Friday night to see Belfast’s own Carl Frampton take on Mexico’s Hugo Cazares in a WBC Super-bantamweight title eliminator. The atmosphere was electric as “The Jackal” made his way to the ring and the home fans did not leave disappointed.
From the opening bell Frampton looked in menacing form. He stalked Cazares with serious intent and landed some nice punches. Roared on by the crowd Frampton comfortably won the first round. Cazares actually started to look a little better in the second round. He countered Frampton on a couple of occasions and showed the experience that had seen him capture the WBO Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight titles in a career that stretches back to 1997. He also attempted to quieten the crowd by taking his time to recover from a dead leg early in the second. However, just when it seemed perhaps the wily veteran was about to settle into the fight, Frampton landed a big left hook to put Cazares down. As much as the veteran Mexican smiled and winked as if to say he wasn’t hurt, his legs told a different story. As soon as the punch landed his legs stiffened and he stumbled to the canvas.
The ending proved controversial as Cazares claimed he lost the count and was ready to continue when referee Victor Loughlin waved the fight off. However, when watching the replay the excuses of the Mexican hold little weight as Loughlin can be seen quite clearly showing him the count with his fingers. No chance of anything being lost in translation. Cazares is a rugged veteran who had not been stopped since 1999. Despite the controversial nature of the stoppage Frampton deserves enormous credit for once again delivering in front of his adoring fans.
Frampton improves to 18-0 and is now in line for a shot at WBC champion, Mexican warrior Leo Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is known as an all action fighter who regularly steals the show on any card. Should a fight with Frampton end up in Belfast, it would be an incredible spectacle for Irish fight fans. If Santa Cruz was watching on Saturday night he cannot relish the prospect of coming to Belfast and stepping into the Lion’s den to face the Tiger’s Bay man.
Frampton’s story has all the makings of a uniting sports figure that the island of Ireland can all get behind. Born and raised in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay area, yet married to a Catholic girl, Frampton is about to challenge for his first world title. Add in the fact that he is mentored by the “Clones Cyclone” Barry McGuigan and trained by McGuigan’s son Shane and it seems all the ingredients are there to create a new Irish sports star.
In fact, Frampton seems to get a bit of a raw deal from Irish mainstream media. In terms of his achievements at this stage of his career, Frampton compares favourably with most Irish athletes. Whilst I wish Conor McGregor every success and this is by no means a criticism of him, compare the coverage given by RTE to McGregor and the lack of coverage given to Carl Frampton. McGregor has only started his UFC career and has yet to break the top 10 in his weight class yet has been the subject of a documentary shown on RTE. Frampton meanwhile is approaching the top of his sport and his latest victory is not deemed worthy of making the sport report on RTE news. Again, I would like to emphasise, my complaint is not that McGregor receives too much coverage but that Frampton does not receive enough.
Perhaps the other big boxing related story this week is the shocking attack on John Joe Nevin which left the Olympian with a badly broken leg. Only last month, Nevin made his professional debut with a successful points victory over Alberto Candelaria. Unfortunately this attack has derailed his career for the moment and he faces a long rehabilitation. I wish him all the best in his recovery and hope to see him back in the ring in 2015.
Juergen Braehmer defended his WBA light heavyweight title with a victory over Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli in Germany on Saturday night. The Welshman is a former cruiserweight world titlist but has suffered a string of knockout defeats since his 2008 loss in a unification fight with David Haye. The hope was dropping down to light heavyweight might overcome the issues with his chin and he had won three fights in a row leading up to this. Unfortunately for Maccarinelli, a Braehmer left in the first round caused his eye to swell badly. It became quickly apparent that if Maccarinelli couldn’t score a knockout he would either be stopped by the doctor or suffer another KO loss. Thankfully after 5 fairly one sided rounds – in which the one-eyed Maccarinelli was at times defenceless against anything coming from his right – his corner finally stopped the fight.
The final piece of action I am going to mention this week is the fight between Giovani Segura and Felipe Salguero. Neither fighter is a household name but Segura has built a reputation among boxing fans as one of the sport’s most entertaining fighters. On Saturday night in Tijuana, Mexico he once again lived up to the billing with an all action 10th round TKO victory. The fight is already being labelled as an early contender for fight of the year. Segura is a firm believer in the adage that attack is the best form of defence and as a result his fights are high on thrills. His previous fight, a 12th round KO of Hernan Marquez was a 2013 fight of the year contender.
Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena.