Months of expectation, build-up and acrimony very nearly came to nothing on Saturday night as Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg took half a fight to warm up.
Thankfully a late charge from Quigg (31-1-2, 23 KO) gave the raucous Manchester crowd their money’s worth, but it was too little, too late for the Englishman and Frampton (22-0, 14 KO) earned the split decision nod.
Quigg should be kicking himself. Though he did much more damage overall, he gifted Frampton the fight by doing nothing for the first six rounds, and “The Jackal” is now the best British junior featherweight by default.
Frampton’s activity and probing jab carried all the early rounds, and the Belfast man easily slipped and slid away from what little came his way. In the 4th Quigg landed a lunging right but failed to follow up, and the pattern resumed.
The crowd, which despite the British commentary team’s repeated assertions of an even split was definitely pro-Frampton, didn’t seem to mind the lack of action, though they were certainly appreciative when Quigg finally began to come forward in the 7th. Frampton remained unworried on the ropes for the most part, showing off his exceptional footwork as he slipped under a Quigg right, unleashing a flurry of in-and-out punches in response.
Quigg’s early pressure stole the 8th and he landed his most significant punches of the fight thus far, a right and a looping left as Frampton backed straight up. The Lancashire man was becoming increasingly assertive, and landed hard shots to the body and head while Frampton attempted to box on the back foot.
Then, in the 10th, a high-level brawl broke out as the pair stood in the center of the ring and exchanged punches. Frampton’s speed, skill and range of punches was impressive, but Quigg was clearly landing the harder shots. In the 11th Frampton seemed to wither under the barrage, and with 20 seconds to go in the round Quigg buckled his legs with driving right, forcing the Belfast boy to hold on for dear life.
That proved to be Quigg’s high water mark. A rejuvenated Frampton easily took the 12th, outclassing his man on the inside for the first half of the round before switching to graceful boxing in the second. Quigg, frustrated, simply couldn’t connect and was left to rue the fact that he hadn’t turned up until halfway through the fight.
The travelling Irish crowd greeted the announcement of the split decision with a cacophony of boos, as well they should have: judge Levi Martinez’s card of 115-133 in favour of Quigg was outside the bounds of reality. The other two judges scored the bout correctly: 116-112 for Frampton.
The win puts Frampton in the picture for big fights and 122 and 126 lbs. Guillermo Rigondeaux is a challenger for one of his belts, and after the fight Frampton mentioned the possibility of going up to featherweight to fight Leo Santa Cruz, an intriguing style match-up, or Lee Selby, another British blockbuster.
Whatever happens, you can bet his travelling Irish followers will be there. As English fans headed for the exits, Frampton’s public stayed behind to appreciate their hero. They adore him, and the feeling is clearly mutual: he interrupted his post-fight interview to lead them in a singalong.
“This isn’t Manchester,” he laughed. “It sounds like Belfast, doesn’t it?”
(Photo: Frampton, right, slips a right through Quigg’s guard; Credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)