Carl Frampton set up an outdoor Belfast summer blockbuster by beating former multiple-weight world champion Nonito Donaire via a unanimous points decision.
‘The Jackal’ has been calling for a big night at Windsor Park and played his part with an impressive display that suggested he is back to his best, the 117-111, 117-111, 117-111 scoring leaving him and his fans in a packed SSE Arena looking forward to bigger nights.
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Lee Selby defends his IBF featherweight title against Josh Warrington in May and the Welshman has already said he is happy to make the short trip to Northern Ireland, should he prevail.
Frampton’s goal has been a rematch with the man who took his WBA ‘Super’ strap away last year, Leo Santa Cruz, but with the Mexican defending against Abner Mares in June, WBO holder Oscar Valdez has also been linked with a summer world-title showdown at the Belfast stadium.
Carl Frampton's gym-mate Tommy Coyle claimed the Commonwealth lightweight title with victory against Sean Dodd Carl Frampton’s gym-mate Tommy Coyle claimed the Commonwealth lightweight title with victory against Sean Dodd
The opening round saw the two former world champions trade shots as they tried to gain the early advantage, ‘The Jackal’s straight right matching Donaire’s renowned left hook. Slowly but surely, the home fighter took control.
Another right and some cute work on the inside saw Frampton trap his opponent in the corner in the second, and as Donaire tried to redress the balance in the third, the Belfast star was happy to pick him off and stay on the back foot.
Carl Frampton was happy to pick Nonito Donaire off
By the fourth Frampton looked completely comfortable following the plan put in place by trainer Jamie Moore, not long after their gym-mate Tommy Coyle had set the ball rolling by taking the Commonwealth lightweight title off Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd in Liverpool, a fight shown live on Sky Sports.
‘Boom Boom’ insists the arrival of ‘The Jackal’ to their team had given him a new lease of life and after four good rounds, it seemed Frampton was back to the form that saw him win world titles at super-bantamweight and featherweight.
Fight fan Rory McIlroy was ringside to see his fellow Northern Irish star in action
But, as Frampton pushed forward in the fifth, Donaire showed why he has won titles in twice as many divisions, landing two beautiful uppercuts. To his credit, Frampton stepped it up in the sixth and seventh with his jab and left-right combination taking over, yet those uppercuts caused him problems again.
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From then on though, anything Donaire tried came up short. Frampton’s shots remained crisp and he was in total control, not least in the ninth when the former pound-for-pound contender seemed to turn away, almost as if it knew he was on his way to only his second defeat in 43 professional fights.
Frampton was caught by a heavy left in the closing stages
By the 10th Frampton was even making Donaire miss and brushing him away with his short, sharp punches, then sliding out of trouble, not only frustrating the ‘Filipino Flash’ but also never overlooking the 35-year-old’s power.
That proved a wise tactic in the 11th as a trademark left hook landed cleanly and troubled Frampton. Donaire caught him in similar fashion again close to the final bell, but the Belfast star answered back and stood firm to add a big name and a big win to his resume.
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