Carl Frampton showed both sides of his game in his homecoming fight at the SSE Odyssey Arena in Belfast tonight.
Back fighting in Belfast after 31 months away, and entering a new chapter in his career under a completely new team, Frampton boxed and fought his way to an entertaining ten-round points win over Horacio Garcia.
The non-title bout, show live on BT Sport, saw featherweight Frampton fight for the first time both since losing his WBA featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz in January and later splitting with the McGuigan family.
Now with promoter Frank Warren, advisors MTK Global, and trainer Jamie Moore, Frampton tested the waters against former sparring partner Garcia in front of a packed out Odyssey.
Following ten high-energy rounds, Frampton overcame a debatable knockdown and a strong finish from Garcia to claim a unanimous decision points win.
A controlled opening round from the returning hero saw Frampton pot-shot with heavy looking punches upstairs, a long left hook particularly standing out.
Frampton began to double up with one-twos in the second while Garcia sought to whip in left hooks to the body.
An open third saw Frampton land a big counter right early. Garcia pushed, put was landing little as ‘The Jackal’ picked his shots with aplomb.
Frampton was counter-punching very well into the fourth but got himself caught on the ropes in the closing minute. The Tiger’s Bay man would recover well though with a stunning hook-uppercut comba that raised the decibel level a few notches.
A clash of heads saw Frampton cut on the left cheek in the fifth, another stanza where he looked to counter off the ropes – with Garcia having his own small spells of success.
Another cut opened to the side of Frampton’s right eye in a sixth round where he exhibited some lovely footwork early on before a strong finish from the game Garcia.
The Odyssey Arena was then shocked in the seventh as Frampton tasted the canvas for the third time, officially, in his pro career. A cuffing shot saw the two-weight champ slip to the deck, with momentum seeming to play a big part. Frampton was up quick, protesting a questionable count, however it was still Garcia that finished the round the stronger.
A close eighth saw both land, with Frampton seemingly hurting Garcia to the body early, but being unable to capitalise as the relentless Mexican refused to slow down.
Frampton touched down again in the penultimate round, and this time the slip was apparent and no knockdown ruled. Garcia was coming on strong, and the Ulsterman elected to meet fire with fire and traded with the Guadalajaran.
Garcia had succeeded in drawing Frampton into a battle, and the tenth round was an all-out war, with the fighters trading throughout until the final bell.
Going to the cards after an exciting fight, the scores read 98-93, 97-93, and 96-93, all in favour of Frampton.
The win sees Frampton improve his record to 24(14)-1(0), and he will now target fights with the big names in the division in 2018.
Following an impressive, if unsuccessful, performance, Garcia drops to 33(24)-4(0)-1.