On Friday night, at home in Belfast, junior featherweight contender Carl Frampton (18-0, 13 KO) hit Hugo Cazares (40-8-2, 27 KO) so hard with a left hook that the waspish Mexican neglected the referee’s count in order to moon over the city’s new hero. As the third man, Victor Loughlin, tolled six, Cazares — sporting the expression of a tourist who’d underestimated the kick in an Irish coffee — winked at his seconds before, inexplicably, averting his eyes from Loughlin’s outstretched fingers (that were serving to translate how little time he had left in order to toe the line) in order to smile at Frampton, who was preparing to exploit the veteran from a neutral corner. Once Loughlin had tolled ten, Cazares leapt to his feet in belated protestation, but in reality, his mishap should be construed as an act of good fortune, despite offering Cazares little succour in the immediate aftermath.
Frampton, Tigers Bay, Belfast, looks a better fighter with each run out. At 27, the studious young powerhouse has moved into his prime and is now eager to match his peak against that of another shooting star in California-based Mexican Leo Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KO).
“I’m mandatory for Leo Santa Cruz now,” Frampton declared from the ring apron post-fight. “He’s a great fighter — someone I admire — but I want that fight now and I hope we can do some work and get that pretty soon.”
Barry McGuigan, Frampton’s long-time mentor and the head of Cyclone Promotions, would like to bring the match — one of the finest that can be made at any weight — to the redeveloped Ravenhill Stadium, an outdoor rugby ground across town from Friday’s venue, The Odyssey Arena (though he conceded they may have to travel, most likely to Las Vegas, in order to secure the fight).
Cazares, Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, had braced the partisan Ulster crowd with a brand of nonplussed indifference that one might expect from a 17-year, 49-fight career. Content to fight off the ropes in the opening round, Cazares (121 ¼ lbs) attempted to counter Frampton’s considered right hands with quick, darting shots from his southpaw stance.
Frampton (121 ½ lbs), an expert counter-puncher who in recent fights has, necessarily, honed a knack for hunting the other man down, measured Cazares with an outstretched left before whipping home powerful right hands that fizzed about the visitor’s chin.
After sending one low into Cazares’ thigh early in round 2, Frampton cornered the 36-year-old in the home corner, and clashed home a searing left hook over Cazares’ right shoulder that instantly discombobulated him and pitched him forward, skittering onto his knees. There he remained until it was too late, lost in a fog of stardust that robbed him of his chief asset: an old hand’s savvy.
“He complained that he could have continued — he would have got annihilated,” McGuigan insisted afterwards. “This kid has got world class power. He hits people with one shot — left hook, right hand — and knocks them out, doesn’t matter who they are.”