The Irish Eye: November
The latest edition of the Irish Eye features a break down of Carl Frampton's return to his hometown, as well as news of the latest bouts involving Jamie Conlan, Paddy Barnes and many more...
On 18 November, after what was close to three long years, Irish boxing hero Carl Frampton finally made his return to 'The Jackal's Den' at the SSE Arena Belfast, in a ten-round contest against tough Mexican Horacio Garcia (33(24)-3-1).
Frampton hadn't fought in Belfast since February 2015 when he successfully defended his IBF super-bantamweight world title for the first time with a fifth-round stoppage of Californian contender Chris Avalos.
Quite a bit has changed in the Tiger's Bay man's career since his last outing in the Titanic City -b oth inside the ring, and out. In the four bouts Frampton has fought on-the-road since his last hometown appearance, 'The Jackal' experienced some of the ultimate highs the beautiful sport had to offer, as well as some wounding lows.
In El Paso, Frampton tasted the canvas for the first time against the now sadly deceased Alejandro Gonzalez Jr, but battled back to secure a wide points victory. In Manchester he unified the super-bantamweight division with a distance victory over undefeated WBA champion Scott Quigg. In Brooklyn, New York, he picked up a third world belt - this time at featherweight - after winning a contender for Fight of The Year against three-weight world champ Leo Santa Cruz, also handing 'El Torremoto' the first defeat of his professional career.
And then in Las Vegas, the Mexican-American returned the favour in the rematch, out-smarting Frampton with a switch in tactics, and handing the Belfast man his first L, and leaving boxing fans calling for a trilogy completing decider.
However, it's arguably the recent goings-on outside the ring that have seen the most drastic changes in his career. Frampton was scheduled to return to Belfast on 28 July against Andres Gutierrez, but failed to make weight. His opponent then fell whilst showering, busting himself up badly enough to rule him out of the fight, leading to the cancellation of the entire event, less than 24-hours before it was due to start.
In the following days and weeks, social media was awash with rumour and counter rumour as to what had gone on behind-the-scenes between Frampton and the Cyclone team. A documentary had aired not long before on the BBC showing how close the McGuigan family and Frampton once were but it was soon clear this was no longer the case.
It later emerged that Frampton had resigned from his directorial role at Cyclone promotions - a week before the Gutierrez bout was scheduled to take place.
Inevitably, an announcement followed from Frampton that he had left Barry McGuigan and Cyclone Promotions on 21 August.
The Jackal had some rebuilding to do around him, and wasted no time in announcing his new head coach, former Irish, British and European champion Jamie Moore. A link-up with MTK Global in an advisory role also followed before it was finally announced that the next chapter of Frampton's career would be promoted by Frank Warren, with the promise of a big summer fight at Windsor Park in 2018.
But, before any such summer showdowns could take place, Mexican Horacio Garcia had to be negotiated, and that would be no easy task.
Frampton could be forgiven for feeling the pressure. The eyes of the boxing world fell upon Belfast for his return. Mexican superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez flew in and sat ringside to show his support for compatriot Garcia. Two possible future opponents were reporting from ringside in Josh Warrington and Scott Quigg and, of course, there was the pressure of putting on a performance for the boisterous 11,000 fans who packed out the SSE Arena for 'Frampton Reborn'.
As the action got under way, it was Frampton who started the better. A minute into the bout The Jackal crouched down to his left to look for an angle and pulled out a ferocious left-hook that landed flush on the chin of Garcia, who - to his credit - didn't flinch. Maybe an early indicator for Frampton that his pre-fight prediction of a stoppage might have to go out the window.
During a fairly routine opening three rounds in Frampton's favour, the Belfast man boxed beautifully - picking his spots, keeping Garcia guessing, while the Mexican didn't really do much bar show he had a good chin.
But in the fourth the Garcia started apply a little more pressure and landed a clubbing left-hook to the body of Frampton that momentarily slowed his movement, which allowed Garcia to get off some big shots when pinning Frampton to the ropes.
It was back to business for Frampton in the fifth as he again out-boxed his opponent but picked up a nick to the side of his right eye after a stiff jab from Garcia.
In the sixth Frampton started well, but then tried to work off the ropes which was again working in Garcia's favour as he was getting through the local fighter's guard with powerful punches. Frampton reverted to boxing on the back-foot for the final minute of the stanza, and landed another thunderous right-hand that bounced off the granite chin of the 27 year-old Mexican in a close round.
In the seventh, Frampton found himself on the canvas following a slip but a glancing left-hand from Garcia connected on the top of the Belfast man's head on his way down, forcing referee Victor Loughlin to administer a count, much to the annoyance of Frampton who shouted "slip". The two competitors went to war for the remainder on the stanza. Garcia grew in confidence from his 'knockdown', and Frampton was trying to land a big shot to claw something back, but it wouldn't be enough as the Mexican bagged his first clear round, and a 10-8 one at that.
Garcia came out in the eighth, buoyed up from the previous round, and began to pressure Frampton, putting him on the back foot behind a stiff jab. Frampton landed a left-hook and slipped again in-doing-so, this time staying on his feet. The Jackal looked frustrated, and elected to stand in the centre of the ring with Garcia and trade, which led to Frampton landing some of his best shots so far in the bout. A thudding left-hook to the body momentarily brought the guard of Garcia down, and Frampton capitalised by landing a beautiful right uppercut.
In the ninth round Frampton slipped again, which was correctly called by Loughlin. Garcia came forward and tried to catch the hometown favourite off-guard with a powerful left-hook to the body, but the shot was blocked and countered from The Jackal with a left-hook to the chin. At the mid-way point of the round Garcia again pinned Frampton to the ropes and let go with some heavy shots, which led to Frampton sometimes trying to hold on to his opponent for a moment's respite as the gruelling encounter finally looked to be catching up with the former world champion, who in fairness landed nice shots in the closing seconds, but probably not enough to steal the round.
The crowd rose to their feet in support of The Jackal as the two combatants met in the centre of the ring for the tenth and final round. Echoes of 'The Ulster boys making all the noise' rang around the packed-out arena.
The fight had been a lot tougher and closer than some may have expected, and a big final round was needed from the Tiger's Bay native, and that's exactly what he produced, picking his power punches beautifully as Garcia marched forward looking for the equaliser, only to be met with fast flurries from the fists of Frampton who finished the stronger.
On the judges' scorecards, Frampton took a unanimous decision victory 98-93, 97-93 and 96-93. The Irish Eye scored it 96-93 in The Jackal's favour.
"I think it was a good fight for the fans," the 30 year-old said post-fight. "I think everyone will probably of enjoyed that, more than me anyway. I got myself caught up in a fight, I was boxing lovely at the start, middle rounds I kind of started to try and fight him. I was doing good stuff in patches and then I let him drag me into a fight. That's got the rust off, the cobwebs are gone, now I want one of the big boys."
On its undercard, 'Frampton Reborn' had arguably one of the most stacked cards to ever hit these shores. Two elite world champions were defending their world titles while there was also a host of undefeated Irish prospects on show and some of our more established names too.
In the chief-support, Falls Road super flyweight Jamie Conlan took an almighty leap up in class as he challenged IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines. Unfortunately it was to prove a leap too far for Conlan, as Ancajas dominated from the opening bell, downing 'The Irish Gatti' in the first, and again another three rimes throughout the bout.
Unsurprisingly, Conlan kept getting up with the roar of the crowd behind him, but there was to-be no fairytale ending as Ancajas continued to attack the body, eventually forcing referee Steve Gray to call a halt to the bout in the sixth round.
Click here to watch Ancajas vs Conlan
Also on the undercard, Paddy Barnes showed once again that he is a man on a mission.
Twelve months since his pro debut at the Titanic exhibition centre, 'The Leprechaun' has been on the fast-track to titles, and picked up his second in just his fifth pro bout, with a sixth-round KO of Eliecer Quezada to claim the WBO Inter-Continental flyweight title and move to 5(1)-0, as well as moving into the top 15 in sanctioning bodies' world rankings.
Click here to watch Barnes vs Quezada
Dublin super-featherweight Jono Carroll moved into the IBF world rankings and also picked up the second strap of his pro career with a third-round TKO against Humberto de Santiago, who had never previously been stopped in his nine-year pro career. 'King Kong' added the IBF Inter-Continental belt to the IBF European trinket he won in his last outing against Johnny Quigley.
The undefeated pressure fighter (now 15(2)-0) will now be hoping to secure big fights in 2018, with the rematch with Declan Geraghty at the top of the Irish boxing fans' wish-list.
Belfast light heavyweight Steven Ward continued his upward trajectory with a six-round points victory over Polish fighter Przemyslaw Binienda at the SSE Arena, Belfast.
'The Quiet Man' completed six rounds for the first time, and had to work hard for victory over teak-tough Pole Binienda. The MTK fighter will be happy to finish his first year as a professional with a perfect 6(2)-0 record.
Big-punching Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker took just one round to dispatch Gyula Rozsas and improve his unbeaten record to 4(4)-0. Having only been pushed into the second round once thus far as a pro, Crocker doesn't believe many will push him much further. "That left-hook is going to end everyone" he said post-fight.
The 20-year-old highly touted prospect has thudding power in both hands, which may cause MTK and Frank Warren a few problems when trying to find him an opponent who can take him a few rounds.
Mullingar lightweight Davey Oliver Joyce continued his unbeaten start to life in the paid ranks with a three-round destruction of Reynaldo Cajina.
The 2016 Rio Olympian has been in fine form since ditching the vest, and improved to 5(4)-0 when Nicaraguan Cajina failed to answer the bell for the fourth round.
Belfast featherweight Marco McCullough returned to the ring for the first time since his British title defeat to Ryan Walsh and scored an impressive fourth-round KO over Josh Baillie to move to 18(11)-4(3).
Belfast cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy outpointed former Cameroon Olympian Blaise Mendouo over six rounds to stretch his impressive record to 11(6)-1.
The 'Mac Attack' took a couple of rounds to get started as he found Mendouo hard to pin down, but once in range 'T-Mac' let his shots go, and strolled to a 60-55 points decision victory.
Naas lightweight Gary Cully opened the card and put on another impressive performance with a four-round points decision victory over England's Kane Baker,
The confident MTK southpaw dominated throughout against a game opponent, using his superior reach and height advantage to pepper Baker with big shots, even downing the brave Englishman in the fourth round with a straight left-hand on his way to a 40-35 points victory, increasing his record to 3(2)-0.
Elsewhere, S.K Promotions ran their inaugural show in The City-West Hotel, Dublin on 24 November.
Local light-welterweight Sean Creagh headlined the 'Next Generation' card and cruised to a six-round points victory over Hungarian journeyman Ferenc Jarko - thus raising his professional record to 7(2)-1(1).
On the undercard, Dublin lightweight Victor Rabei moved to 3(0)-0 with a four-round decision victory over tough Polish brawler Damien Lawniczak 4(0)-26(3)-1 and Tallaght lightweight Laim Gaynor moved to 2(0)-0 with a four-round points victory over Krzysztof Rogowski (10(5)-24(13).
Waterford middleweight Craig McCarthy had Pole Michal Ciach down in the fourth and final round on his way to a 40-35 victory. And finally, there was a light-heavyweight domestic dust-up between Kildare's Chris Mullally and Dublin-Dominican Manny Bique over four-rounds, with Mullally getting the nod 39-37 on the referee's scorecard.
Elsewhere around the world, Derry middleweight Connor Coyle moved to 7(2)-0 at the Coliseum, Saint Petersburg, USA on 21 November with a frustrating eight-round unanimous decision victory over Calvin Metcalfe who slipped to 6-1 following his first defeat.
The Foylesider spoke to irish-boxing.com post-fight, and stated: “I got a call to say FX1 wanted me to be the first TV fight, but when we arrived at the venue I ended up being a swing bout! I was warming up for three hours with my gloves taped up! Horrible feeling all the waiting around, warming up and cooling down, not knowing when you’ll be up next!
“I had an off night. And I had an off night with the worst opponent! He was awful. Awkward and very frustrating. I plan on having another eight-round fight next, then moving on to a title fight after that. I’d like to have two titles next year here in the States!”