By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
Carl Frampton headed the bill to a vociferous Belfast crowd last night and it was an incredibly enjoyable card indeed. We got underway with world title action as the brilliant Zolani Tete defended his WBO World Bantamweight title against the relatively unknown Siboniso Gonya. We know how gifted Tete is but we knew little about the other South African. Well, unfortunately Tete didn’t really give us much chance to find out. He flattened Gonya and the fight was waved off after 11 seconds – a world record for world title fights! It was the first real shot thrown by either man, a crunching right hand that landed clean on an unsuspecting Gonya and he was out almost immediately. It’s been a bit frustrating seeing Tete not in against the other top fighters in the division but hopefully we will perhaps see a unification against Ryan Burnett. I don’t know politically how easy that’ll be to make but 2017 has given us some pleasant surprises with fights so perhaps that can crop up in 2018 for us. Tete is technically very good and needs to be in with guys around his level to increase his relevance.
Heavyweight action followed that flash of as fight we’d just had. Alex Dickinson took himself to 3-0 after grinding out a win against the surprisingly game Milen Paunov. It looked an easy win for Dickinson early on but he tired a little and Paunov had some success on the inside. Dickinson showed some good body work during the fight but is very much still developing as a fighter in the pro ranks. The vacant IBF Intercontinental Super Featherweight title was up for grabs next. Jono Carroll was pit against Humberto de Santiago and he made the most of his showing. Carroll had just 1 stoppage in 14 coming into this and Santiago had never been stopped prior to this. Can you guess what happened? Fight waved off in the 3rd after a barrage of shots from Carroll. Carroll looked pretty sharp and was using a very strong jab to take charge in the centre of the ring. Once he’d established himself there it was easy enough to force Santiago against the ropes and work him. Body shots did the damage to begin with although to be fair to Santiago when the fight was waved off his arm was stuck in the rope. His legs looked to have gone at this stage anyway so I don’t think he’ll complain.
‘The Leprechaun’ Paddy Barnes collected the WBO Intercontinental Flyweight belt to add to his collection too. He looked very impressive against Eliecer Quezada, although in reality he should look impressive against guys like this. The fighters met in the middle of the ring and Steve Gray got a chance to show off his Spanish when giving instructions to Quezada which was a real personal highlight for me. Barnes pretty much had things his own way from the get go. I don’t think he’s looked as good as he should do in past fights but this was a solid showing. He’s evidently small even at Flyweight but used his feet expertly to get in and out of range against the Nicaraguan. He was just too fast and too accurate, eventually dropping his man with a sharp right on the inside in the 2nd round. He threw a shot whilst Quezada was down though which he probably should have lost a point for. There was nothing malicious about it but he needs to be careful. The pair traded on the inside in the 3rd with Barnes coming out on top; Quezada was unable to establish himself at ranges and just couldn’t pick Barnes’ defence open when he was in range. The fight was over in the 6th as Barnes throws a left hook to the head and then follows it up to the body which Quezada couldn’t get up from.
Hey, remember that boring Jamie Conlan fight? Nope, me neither. Despite a truly valiant effort and stubbornness, Conlan was just a level below Jerwin Ancajas as he challenged for his IBF World Super Flyweight title. Conlan was down in the 1st round (which was otherwise a quiet one) although it wasn’t clear from what. Seemed to be a very delayed reaction to perhaps a body shot. He also picked up a very nasty cut in the 2nd and the writing was slowly appearing on the wall already. He was trying to time Ancajas coming in but just wasn’t able to do so. Conlan was down again in the 3rd from a body shot which would become a theme for him. At this point, Ancajas was really starting to put a bit of a beating on ‘The Mexican’. The 4th followed a similar pattern. Ancajas then had a point taken away for a couple of low shots which both put Conlan down although it seemed pretty harsh to be honest. Ancajas wasn’t doing anything too fancy in this fight either. Once he’d hurt Conlan to the body he kept throwing straight shots down the middle low before occasionally mixing it back upstairs which Conlan was struggling to read. To his credit, Conlan was landing the occasional single shot on Ancajas but nothing to bother him at all, whilst Ancajas was landing in bunches pretty much at will. It was all over in the 6th. Conlan goes down from a head shot this time and Steve Gray waves it off, which was the correct decision. Conlan was getting hit a lot and there was a long way left in the fight, which showed no signs of turning the other way at all. He kept getting up and trying to throw back but he was outclassed tonight.
The crowed were pretty excitable at this stage anyway but they really went all out for when Frampton came to the ring. Horacio Garcia was a pretty heavy underdog and on paper probably deserved to be. In fact, for the first 3 rounds it looked like it would be an easy night for Frampton. He looked like he’d hardly been out of the ring at all. He was landing some lovely lead left hooks and moving around the ring exceptionally well whilst Garcia just plodded forward and mostly missed with his head shots.
During the 3rd and a bit more so in the 4th, Garcia started to tag Frampton downstairs and this seemed to have an effect later in the fight when Frampton visibly slowed down. Frampton would find himself in front of Garcia and instead of pivoting around like he had been earlier in the fight he chose to hold his feet and Garcia was all too happy to oblige him, throwing plenty whenever he got the chance to do so. In fact, he was throwing plenty in the early rounds too but just couldn’t time Frampton he slowly became less and less elusive. By the 5th Frampton had picked up a cut and Garcia was showing no respect for anything Frampton landed with. He was starting to walk through Frampton’s offence and have success of his own.
The quality boxing was still coming from Frampton but the work rate and pressure was from The Mexican. I generally dislike cliches but it was clearly not a great idea for Frampton to stand and trade with Garcia but alas that’s what he elected to do. He would say after the fight that this was for the benefit of the fans but I suspect the legs were a little tired. Frampton found himself on the canvas in the 7th; his leg appeared to be tangled with Garcia’s and he went down. Garcia landed a shot as he was going down but still, not a knockdown for me. The fight was really alive at this stage and there was plenty of trading between the 2. Again, the sleeker and smarter work was coming from Frampton who was moving his head well and picking nice counters but Garcia was constant and looked the physically stronger. If this was a 12 round fight I think Frampton would have been in serous trouble toward the end but thankfully for him it was just a 10 rounder. The final round was an excellent show and capped off a great fight between two very respectful fighters. Garcia’s work rate has to be admired and he showed a solid chin. He isn’t the most technically gifted fighter but he showed he can be a hard night for anyone.
The scores read 98-93, 97-93 and 96-93 for Frampton. Perhaps a little wide in some instances but the right man won. I don’t know if the struggle was down to weight or just being out for so long but he got the job done and put on a superb fight in doing so. Warren said a big fight was coming next for Frampton in Spring. With Selby likely to be fighting Warrington, I think this could well end up being against Oscar Valdez. Now, that is a winnable fight for Frampton on paper but last night’s fight doesn’t make me feel confident in picking him. He doesn’t have a happy history in fights with Mexicans and Valdez would be the most accomplished ones he’s faced.by