After waiting four years to fight, it was all over in 36 minutes that ranged between dull and dramatic, and, when it was done, Carl Frampton left Manchester with his own IBF super-bantamweight belt and the WBA title of his brave but outclassed rival, Scott Quigg.
The judges saw it 115-113 for Quigg – ludicrously – and two scores of 116-112 for the Irishman. From where the Guardian was seated, it was difficult to give Quigg more than a few rounds near the end, and his frantic efforts showed that he knew he had given up too much early ground.
It was not a great fight – although it had a superb finish – but it was an occasion worth waiting for.
It was one of those rare nights, emotions riding high long before a blow was struck, an occasion garlanded at the off by the booming imprimatur of Michael Buffer. The fact that Frampton and Quigg had been “ready to rumble” for so long only lent the moment more unbearable tension. A long, low hum, dressed up by drumbeats, ebbed and flowed throughout, rising to ear-splitting levels at the end.
They probed and parried, Frampton to greater effect in a quite opening. Quigg ate too many early jabs, Frampton taunting him on the hunt, as jackals do.
After nine minutes, Quigg had not landed a punch of significance, his reddening features telling a story of anxiety and frustration as his opponent moved him about the ring at will, making him miss and making him pay.
If this was Joe Gallagher’s battle plan, Quigg needed to make some on-field adjustments if he were not to fall into a slough; he came briefly to life in the fourth, and again in the fifth, but still Frampton edged it with heavy jabs.
As the went past halfway – the point Quigg’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, had predicted a knockout for his man, “no question” – the Bury fighter had not won a round, or even an exchange, and was on the wrong end of a comprehensive boxing lesson. Catcalls in the crowd must have echoed his own concerns and he grew wilder in attack, more careless in defence.
It was getting to the point where anyone with a heart softer than stone would be feeling a deal of sympathy for the man whose grip on the WBA title was being methodically loosened.
Quigg, the boxing-obsessed loner who admits there are very few other interests in his life, was now very much on a desert island of his own creation, needing a stoppage, by most estimations, to rescue him from total embarrassment.
Round seven brought some encouragement, and the crowd were roused from their slumber by a brief flurry from their man, but Frampton quickly spun him 360 degrees on the ropes and punished him further to head and body. It might have been an even three-minutes – just.
What had been a gloomy cul-de-sac for Quigg was now at least a two-way cycle lane, as desperation informed his work. A long left landed – but it had no right hand for company, and the moment passed.
In the ninth, his best round to that point, Quigg finally put together a few combinations, but nothing that was going to turn the flow of the battle.
Shane McGuigan screamed at Frampton as they went out for the 10th to concentrate for the championship finish, and he responded by standing toe to toe with his adversary, soaking up a few of those feared body shots to turn what had been a boxing match into an emotional, close-quarters fight.
It probably was not what McGuigan had in mind but he shared the honours. If either of them was weight-drained, it would show now.
With six minutes to save his title, Quigg needed no instructions. He knew he had to knock Frampton out, or hurt him so badly he would not want to continue. But a look of fierce determination spread across Frampton’s face as they swapped the heaviest punches of the evening. Quigg took the round with a belting right hand, nearly spoiling it with a late rabbit punch.
A left staggered Frampton at the start of the final stanza but he held his ground. A right grazed his whiskers: ditto. Quigg had saved his best for last but it was miserable timing. Had he fought like this throughout, he might have won. And, of course, they embraced at the end. Briefly their trainers appeared to move towards a hug and a smile … that would have been too much to ask for, though.
Maybe they will go again.
Earlier, the London flyweight Charlie Edwards, a decorated amateur, became a seven-fight professional champion when he won all 10 rounds against the 27-year-old Belfast Cockney Luke Wilton to win the vacant WBC international “silver” belt, a bauble which might prove useful as a negotiating chip to bigger things. Or a nice, shiny doorstop.
Wilton’s 23-year-old Belfast colleague Ryan Burnett, unbeaten now in 13 fights and tutored by Adam Booth, won the same prize (without the silver) at bantam, putting Anthony Settoul over in the fifth with a right, but the 25-fight Frenchman took his licks all the way to the final bell in round 10. It was an impressive performance by the Irish switch-hitter.
The undefeated light-heavyweight Hosea Burton got the Gallagher camp off to a good start on the undercard, putting Miles Shinkwin down twice on the way to a sixth-round stoppage to win the vacant British title in his 15th fight.
The Doncaster super-bantam Gavin McDonnell, the 29-year-old twin brother of Jamie, who holds the WBA’s “regular” bantamweight title, got a step closer to his own shot at the WBC world championship with one of the easiest wins of his career. He outpointed Panama’s stubborn Jorge Sanchez over 12 rounds to claim another of the organisation’s vacant “silver” titles. The WBC should be renamed the World Boxing Cloud, so many silver linings do they have.
“El Bufalo”, a crude but busy 25-year-old swinger who had never fought outside his own country and probably would not last two rounds with either Frampton or Quigg, went down in the second, as if on rollerskates, but went the distance for his first defeat in 16 contests.
Isaac Lowe from Morecambe was too wise for Marco McCullough from Belfast, and stopped him in the eighth round to win the vacant Commonwealth featherweight title.
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