Carl Frampton back to his best with Nonito Donaire win

Carl Frampton feels he is now back to his best following his first fight of 2018.

A tumultuous 2017 saw him lose the WBA featherweight title on a self-confessed off-night versus Leo Santa Cruz. Amidst plenty of distractions outside-the-ring, Frampton then turned in a mixed performance in an adjustment fight against former sparring partner Horacio Garcia.

However, the fear factor was back and a ‘best ever’ camp was turned in for the challenge of four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire on Saturday night – with Frampton dominating the Filipino legend and claiming a unanimous decision win and the WBO interim featherweight title at the SSE Odyssey Arena in Belfast.

31-year-old Frampton [25(14)-1(0)]looked sharp throughout, with quick feet, wholly apparent strength, and tactical acumen which scored him a 117-111 x3 win on the cards to add the future Hall of Famer to his CV.

Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing, with Frampton being visibly rocked in the penultimate round. The Ulsterman, however, survived the round and saw out the win, finishing stronger in the twelfth.

Reflecting on the brief scare, Frampton noted how “as you saw in the eleventh round, Nonito Donaire is dangerous but I survived the round, stuck to the game plan. He was a sharp puncher throughout.”

“In the 11th round I was definitely hurt, I’m not going to deny it, but I survived it and that’s what champions do, they survive.”

All in all, though, Frampton was happy with the performance which he rates as one of his best.

“It was a good performance,” he said. “Donaire is a really, really dangerous counter-puncher but I thought my distance and my jab controlled things.”

“I could see what he was trying to do, trying to come in with the double jab and nail the right h but it didn’t land too much. I think my focus was spot-on tonight, it’s up there with one of my better performances.”

“The plan was to box from the outside and use my jab – which I think was brilliant – and then, when I got close, stay close. The only time I really got caught at middle-distance was when I got nailed in the eleventh round.”

A constant question surrounding Frampton is his stamina.

A weight-drained performance versus Scott Quigg, an unfavourable comparison to the relentless Leo Santa Cruz, and an undercooked showing against Horacio Garcia have led many to doubt the ability of the Tiger’s Bay fighter to go the full twelve.

Frampton, who incorporated altitude training into his camp for this bout, was happy to report that he was in the shape of his life.

He explained how “it wasn’t the highest-paced fight in the world but I remember looking at the rounds and I was thinking ‘it doesn’t feel like the tenth round, I feel fresh’.”

“I felt good, fresh the whole way through. At times, my boxing was beautiful.”

Frampton credited his new team for his performance and condition on a night which saw stablemates Tommy Coyle and Steven Ward win, while Conrad Cummings was defeated by Luke Keeler.

‘The Jackal’ outlined how “my trainer Jamie Moore deserves a lot of credit, the gameplan was perfect.”

“I stuck to a gameplan, which we had the whole way through camp, from day one right to the end, and I carried it out to a T.”

“It was just back to basics, a well-planned, well-executed gameplan.”

“There’s a new determination about me now. A new mindset, a new team and everything is going the way it should be.”


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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: