By Joe O’Neill
On Saturday, Carl Frampton successfully defended his IBF Super Bantamweight title for the first time with a fifth round stoppage of the cocky Californian, Chris Avalos. In what was his first ever fight on terrestrial TV, the Tiger’s Bay man attracted peak audiences of over 2.3 million across ITV and UTV.
Many new fans were won and, if he remains on free-to-air television, this platform will continue to elevate Frampton to even greater fame and acclaim. A superfight, five years in the making, with Englishman Scott Quigg now seems likelier than ever to be Frampton’s next fight.
In anticipation of this bout – and in celebration of his transition to terrestrial TV star – Irish-boxing.com takes a look back through the career of ‘The Jackal’ and the pivotal fights which took him to where he is today.
In September 2010, Frampton, in what was his seventh fight, headlined a professional show for the first time in his career. The venue was the compact Ulster Hall where he faced off against Yuriy Voronin. The Ukranian southpaw was familiar to Irish fight fans having come close to upsetting Bernard Dunne five years previously, however, at 37, he was past his best when he came to Belfast.
Nevertheless, the heavy-punching veteran from Odessa was still a dangerous opponent for the inexperienced young Frampton. The Belfast man rose wonderfully to the challenge and exhibited the punching power that he would soon become famous for by knocking the veteran down twice in the second round before the referee halted proceedings a round later. Comparisons with Scott Quigg were immediately drawn as a year previously he and Voronin had fought in what was the Englishman’s sixteenth fight. Quigg however took double the amount of time to beat the same opponent.
These comparisons were kicked into overdrive after Frampton’s next fight where he stopped Gavin Reid in the second round to win the Celtic title. Reid’s previous fight saw Quigg take nine rounds to dispatch him. Comparisons aside, the Voronin win was a devastating performance from Frampton and those in attendance knew the Belfast had a new star on their hands. Frampton had tasted what it was like to be a headline act and it would not be long before he was packing out arenas almost ten times bigger than the Ulster Hall.
In June 2011, Frampton was unimpressive in a fight for the first, and perhaps the only, time in his career. Defending the Celtic title he had won two fights previously, ‘The Jackal’ faced Welshman Robbie Turley in Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. There were no doubts about the result with Frampton winning a close but clear decision, however he was drawn into an ugly battle with the energetic Turley.
The Belfast man shipped a fair few shots and was cut over his eye in a bout where he got frustrated and was deducted a point for hitting after the bell. This still ranks as an important fight in Frampton’s development. Going past six rounds for the first time in his career in what was a tough and scrappy battle against an awkward opponent was a crucial learning experience for the future world champion. Additionally, this laboured performance prompted Frampton and Team Cyclone to bring Shane McGuigan aboard to work alongside Gerry Storey in the boxer’s corner.
A close friend of Frampton, and two years his junior, McGuigan has used modern training techniques and an instinctive relationship with the talented fighter to achieve ever-improving results and performance levels.
Probably the most infamous fight of Frampton’s career happened in May 2012. Here he fought for the IBF Inter-Continental title against highly ranked, undefeated, Mexican Raúl Hirales as chief support to the Carl Froch–Lucian Bute world title fight in Nottingham. Frampton used the fight to exhibit his boxing skills and test himself over twelve rounds for the first time.
This choice was no doubt in response to people – namely Sky Boxing commentator Jim Watt – questioning the skills of Frampton and wondering whether he was just a come-forward slugger. Any such thoughts were obliterated as he put on a boxing clinic from the back foot, registering a shut-out, punch-perfect victory against a credible opponent.
However, perhaps showing the first signs that Sky and Frampton were not a perfect fit, this performance was not well received by the channel’s analysts who decried it as a poor, boring display and that he needed to be more exciting. This infuriating flip-flopping is still brought up by the Belfast man today.
In September 2012, Frampton headlined a show in Belfast’s Odyssey Arena for the first time – a venue which go on to become known as the Jackal’s Den. On a card labelled ‘Judgement Day,’ the Belfast man faced Canadian former two-time world champion Steve Molitor. The southpaw from Ontario was a replacement for Kiko Martínex (more on him later) and was expected to seriously test Frampton.
What actually happened was that the Tiger’s Bay man bullied Molitor around the ring, dropping him thrice – along with numerous ‘slips’ – before the fight was stopped in the sixth. After the fight much conversation centred around how Molitor, at 32, was past his best, and while this may be partially true, he was still ranked #9 by The Ring going into the fight and was a world champion less than two years previously.
The clinical beating from Frampton however would send ‘The Canadian Kid’ into retirement. The fight would be Frampton’s last defence of his Commonwealth title as he looked to move on to bigger and better things. Four fights later he would be world champion.
Kiko Martínez – I
In February 2013, ‘The Jackal’ finally got around to fighting Kiko Martínez on a show billed ‘Unfinsished Business’. He would take on Bernard Dunne’s conqueror for the European title at the Odyssey Arena in what was, in hindsight, arguably the toughest fight of his career.
This fight also holds importance as it was Frampton’s first fight where Shane McGuigan assumed head trainer duties and the pair have not looked back since. While it lasted, it was a close fight with Frampton winning the first few rounds before the Spaniard began to assert himself.
The Belfast man was able to take Martinez’s best shots before a stunning one-punch knockout in the ninth round – just as ‘La Sensación’ seemed to be building up a head of steam. Frampton was the first (and remains the only) man to knock Martínez out. If anyone had any doubts about Frampton’s class, power and potential they were all well and truly extinguished with one short right hand.
Kiko Martínez – II
The big one. In September 2014, Frampton fought for his first world title against a familiar foe. After being knocked-out by Belfast’s finest, Martínez won the IBF super bantamweight title in the U.S. with a surprise stoppage victory over Colombian Jhonatan Romero. He would go on to defend it twice against former titlists Jeffrey Mathebula and Hozumi Hasegawa before being lured back to Belfast for the chance of revenge (and a hefty payday).
The ‘Titanic Showdown’ was one of the biggest boxing events this island has ever seen with Cyclone constructing a purpose-built, temporary 16,000 seat temporary arena on the historic Titanic Slipway for the card. Martínez had definitely improved greatly since their first fight however so had Frampton – who would win a wide decision, knocking the Spaniard down in round five, in what was an engrossing, grueling fight. The night may have been near-freezing however Frampton was red hot.