The stormy gale rifling through Belfast outside was as a zephyr compared with the whirlwind Carl Frampton delivered to his challenger, Chris Avalos, at the Odyssey Arena night.
The 28-year-old kept his IBF super-bantamweight title, as expected, and did the job inside five rounds that had the packed house enthralled until the merciful stoppage.
It was one of the best of Frampton’s 20 wins, a stoppage to go alongside 13 already gathered, and he can look with some confidence now to adding to his bank account and reputation in America, where reside the real targets of his ambition: Guillermo Rigondeaux and Léo Santa Cruz. However, in the immediate aftermath, he expressed a strong desire to end the long-running feud he has had with Scott Quigg. “I want a quick fight in the summer,” he said. “That’s a score I’ve got to settle.”
With Barry McGuigan struggling to stay in his ringside seat, Frampton fought with the sort of vigilant aggression that was his mentor’s trademark as world featherweight champion. Trained by McGuigan’s son, Shane, he is an astute and dangerous fighter, and there does not appear to be an ounce of recklessness in his makeup.
During tense and sometimes spiteful exchanges during the week, Frampton kept his head, confident he could provide the right answers when it mattered. Avalos had taunted him with the sort of jibe better placed in movies, pointing out he had not grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth - a daft thing to say to someone from Tiger’s Bay.
Avalos, beaten only twice in 25 bouts – both on close points decisions – played his part in the main drama on the night, but not in the way he probably intended. After a promising start, he looked to have abandoned any semblance of a game plan, no doubt riding high on adrenalin in the loudest fight of his career. The noise was deafening from well before the first bell and did not let up until their hero had completed his task.
Just after 11pm, 11,000 Irishmen in this heaving arena were asking: “Who are ya?” in the familiar style of greeting for a little-regarded guest. Soon after, he was giving them his answer, taking the fight to the champion in a lively start.
Avalos shook his head in defiance when they touched gloves, and Frampton gave the Californian good reason to do it again with a short left hook as they settled down to work. The referee warned the challenger for a sneaky tap on the break but he did some decent legal work as well in an even first round.
Avalos had a six-inch reach advantage and made good use of with plenty of stiff jabs in the opening moments of the second, as Frampton was finding it tough to gauge his opponent’s sideways movement.
Then there was the most curious lapse by Avalos, who seemed to have hurt his right shoulder and was staring at the canvas when Frampton charged in and punished him for his inattentiveness.
Avalos, having tested the strength of Frampton’s best shots, was slow off his stool at the start of the third, and his earlier fluency had dwindled under quality pressure as they worked at close quarters. Blood flowed freely from the visitor’s mouth as Frampton punished his raggedness, staggering him in centre ring with a corking right hand to his jaw.
Frampton was a couple of rounds up after three stanzas and growing in confidence. Desperation spread across Avalos’s marked-up features, and he ignored his corner’s instructions to box at distance, foolhardiness which Frampton turned to his increasing advantage. The countering option looked to be his most productive as Avalos continued to over-reach with his now tentative jab, while leaving large gaps with haymakers that did little but move the air. A smack in the mouth just after the bell for the fourth did little for his composure, either.
Frampton abandoned the waiting game in the fifth and it paid immediate dividends, as he battered his bewildered foe across the ring and on to the ropes. Several times Avalos staggered, eyes glazed, gloves drooping.
Yet he showed terrific courage – and no little foolhardiness – as he continued to swing wide, arcing hooks in the hope that at least one would land to keep his tormentor at bay. Punch after concussive punch thrashed his swollen face and, after one final crunching right to the jaw, he was saved from his own bravery after one minute and 35 seconds of the round, still standing, but chastened and bruised for his lack of discipline.
This was a fight ITV will have been well pleased with on their return to big-time boxing. If it is to be a permanent stint, Frampton could yet attract the sort of figures McGuigan generated in one of the most exciting eras in British boxing.
Rigondeaux is a class apart, according to most good judges, but he has been down a few times and is not unbeatable. Frampton will come to believe that more and more as he piles on the victories in such convincing style.
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