It is one thing to win a world title, but another to take a city with you. Late on a cool Saturday night at the outdoor event in the Titanic Quarter, Carl Frampton achieved both. England's WBA champion Scott Quigg is now in his eyeline.
Barry McGuigan provided the glue to bind the province in the 1980s in Loftus Road with his win over Eusebio Pedroza. Wayne McCullough did it again in 1996 slightly out of sight in Japan where he beat Yasuei Yakushiji in Nagoya and now Frampton – with McGuigan in his corner – has emulated the achievement with a unanimous decision (119-108, 119-108 and 118-111) over the former IBF super bantamweight world champion, Kiko Martinez.
Frampton’s win was not without moments of concern but true to his pre-fight declaration he took on Martinez more than he had in their first meeting in 2013, which the Irish man won by knockout.
Frampton and his educated jab brought the fight to Martinez from the outset, much to the approval of 16,000 in the seated arena overlooked by the giant Harland and Wolff cranes Samson and Goliath.
Once a symbol of all that was wrong with the city, they provided the perfect backdrop as Frampton moved forward controlling the ring with the crowd was always eager to rise to their feet.
They had cause to feel optimistic with his hand speed, superior movement and counterpunching landing clean enough to keep the score cards ticking over.
It took Martinez four or five rounds to settle into the fight, which was as much to do with Frampton’s hus
tle as anything, before some signs of overeagerness from the challenger drew him towards the heavy-hitting danger zone where he was caught heavily. But it was Martinez, who went down in round five, although referee Steve Gray ruled it a slip.
By round eight the gallant Spaniard knew he had fallen into a chasing game against the impeccable Belfast 27-year-old. And it was in those dying rounds that Frampton stood unflinching and tall.
Martinez landed all he could and although Frampton tired and took a last gasp left in round 11, again he responded with each punch drawing the crowd closer to the ring in giant collective waves.
While he couldn’t find the finishing blow as he had done 19 months ago – and arch critics may look on that as Frampton still being a work in progress – his imperfect but classy exhibition made him the runaway winner.
English rival Scott Quigg, holder of the WBA title, is now on the radar. “I’ll fight Quigg anywhere. And he needs to remember that I’m the one holding a proper world title,” said Frampton.
But for the charging bull Martinez, the matador had nothing but admiration. Martinez has never been afraid to travel for his bouts with this his second visit to Belfast.
“He was a hard puncher. He is a tough man. I respect him more than any man I ever fought,” said Frampton. “This is a dream come true, 20 years in the making.”
The IBF Mandatory opponent, however is Californian Chris Avalos (24) and there’s been plenty of talk about Leo Santa Cruz. Whoever that maybe the fight will probably take place next spring. Still, Frampton has eyes for what will be an enormous British domestic showdown against Quigg.
“There are so many options out there but the man I want is Scott Quigg. I will fight him anywhere,” added Frampton.
There were also kind words for McGuigan, his promoter, mentor
and former featherweight champion. Even before Frampton had become a household name, McGuigan had been talking him up. That continued.
“I am immensely proud of Carl,” said the Clones man. “He is twice the fighter I was.”
The team will spend the next months mulling over the options but against Kiko, Frampton achieved twice now what Bernard Dunne could not in Dublin.
Frampton and amateur double Olympic bronze medallist and Commonwealth champion Paddy Barnes and Olympic bronze medallist and Commonwealth Champion Michael Conlan all live a short distance from each other. Not bad for Belfast or for boxing.
On the same card Jamie Conlan, older brother of Michael, won the WBO Intercontinental Super Flyweight title with a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Estrella.
Coincidentally, just as Michael had done for the Commonwealth title in Scotland this year, Jamie successfully fought with a bad cut over his left eye before winning by scores of 99-92, 97-93 and 97-93.