Carl Frampton beats Kiko Martinez to capture International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight title
Ulsterman claims title after pulsating 12-round battle against Spaniard in front of partisan home crowd
By Gareth A Davies, Boxing Correspondent, Belfast
Carl Frampton sent the partisan crowd in the sold out purpose-built arena in the Titanic District here into raptures on Saturday night by capturing the International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight title from Kiko Martinez in a thrilling, brutal encounter.
Frampton had beaten Martinez twenty months ago, stopping the Spaniard, not then a world champion, in the ninth round for the first time in his career. This time around, the Ulsterman was taken to the wire in a twelve-round war.
It was a landslide unanimous points decision – 119-108, 119-108, 118-111 on the cards – and Frampton had the proud champion on the canvas in the fifth round with one of many counter right hooks, but there were purposeful assaults from both men throughout. A third fight between them is not out of the question.
"He's a tough man and I have never respected a man as much," admitted the 27-year-old who acknowledged the support of "the best fans in the world". It was some event. "I want to fight one man – Scott Quigg – but his promoter Eddie Hearn needs to understand that I am the man with the belt now."
This magnificent performance represents the start of what could be a celebrated journey to the top of boxing’s tough summit, masterminded by his mentor and promoter Barry McGuigan and his son, Shane McGuigan. No stone had been left unturned in the making of both this event, and Frampton’s scintillating encounter in the ring inside the most pressurised cauldron of his professional fighting life.
Huge fights lie ahead for Frampton, against the other world champions – decorated Cuban Guillermo Rigoeaux, Mancunian Quigg and Mexican Leo Santa Cruz. A run of victories could even elevate the talented box-fighter into the world’s pound for pound list. But those days lie ahead. For now, he can bask in the familiar chant of ‘There’s only one Carl Frampton’ the wee lad who grew up less than half a mile from the arena in Tigers Bay.
"He's a very talented fighter and this is the start of the journey for a young man who I believe is a special talent," said McGuigan Senior.
Using the identical ring and canopy as Carl Froch-George Groves 2 at Wembley Stadium on May 31 this year, the atmosphere built to a crescendo as the Spaniard and the hometown hero entered the freezing open air stadium, which had been named 'The Jackal's Den' on account of Frampton's ring sobriquet. The Irishman refused to be denied in his own lair.
In a thrilling, epic, titanic battle – the biggest fight in Northern Ireland’s history – the Ulsterman took his unbeaten record to 19 fights, in a career which looks set for the very highest level. It was Martinez's fifth loss in his 36th prize fight.
Frampton started the fight with aplomb landing right hands landing, and moving smartly to avoid the winging overhand rights thrown by the champion, which whistled through thin air.
The battle was soon intense and sustained. A minute into the second and they were trading brutal, heavy punches. Frampton had success with his jab and left hook, while Martinez scored with a barrage of hooks, one a dangerous counter. Frampton replied with a heavy right hand of his own. They both fired relentlessly.
The third round was Frampton’s, as he firstly attacked the body, then caught the 28-year-old off balance with a right hook and commanded by attacking off the back foot with clinical counters. But still the obdurate Spaniard marched forward.
Frampton then staggered Martinez with another right and was caught himself in the counter, replying immediately with a precise combination. It was a pattern mirrored round after round. The pace was relentless as the protagonists sought to break their foe. Frampton was warned for going in with his head at the end of the fourth period.
Martinez poured the pressure on in the fifth as Frampton slipped and the Spanish slugger took aim at him on the ground. The Irishman regained his composure and, seconds later, Martinez was cut on the left eye, before Frampton put him down with a right hook. Belfast erupted. Martinez was up at the count of eight.
The champion continued to march forward in the sixth, his face reddening as Frampton caught him with slick counters, two big right hands, and moved out of trouble with deft, slick movement. It was brilliant boxing from Frampton again.
Still dangerous, Martinez landed a sharp left hook in the seventh, intent on breaking the challenger. Biting down on his gumshield, breathing hard, Martinez refused to relent as first jabs then right hands came stinging back from the circling challenger.
Frampton rocked Martinez with a left and then a right in the eighth, looking to box smart as blood trickled down the left hand side of the visiting fighter’s face.
In the final third they did not desist from their all-out battle of fists and will. A right-hook left uppercut from Frampton was met by a double jab from Martinez, rocking his younger foe’s head back.
There were opportunities for Frampton to end the fight decisively. A barrage of scything punches in the eleventh suddenly slowed Martinez, and it appeared that Frampton may just force the finish, but the champion roared back, the two men going into the trenches in the final round for a memorable war.
Trainer McGuigan, two years younger than the newly-crowned 122lbs world champion, had called on the services of a renowned bio-scientist in his preparation and the challenger needed every advantage to battle his way to the end on a memorable night in Ireland's proud boxing history.