By Steven Bateson
Carl Frampton lived his dream and produced a fantastic performance to halt the game Luke Jackson in the ninth round, winning the interim WBO Featherweight Championship in front of an adoring crowd at Windsor Park on Saturday night.
It was a fairly quiet opener with Frampton happy to take centre ring whilst Jackson kept on the outside and tried to raid inside. Frampton was showing off great pose and measure as he ghosted all of Jackson’s attacks and then picked neat shots of his own. A solid right hand to the body with Jackson up against the ropes was the pick of the round. Frampton’s control continued into the second and immediately caught Jackson with a cuffing left to the top of the head as the Australian tried to work inside. Frampton then nailed his man with a short left hook to the jaw, bringing a blink from Jackson, before landing three meaningful body shots. Frampton was looking extremely sharp and the visitor already playing catchup.
The third was a big one for Frampton as he showed the levels between the two men. A left hook and a right hand to the body started the round and then a right upstairs seemed to momentarily stun the Australian. Jackson showed his grit and chose to stand and trade but Frampton’s variety and skills put him in the ascendency; a left hook counter unbalancing Jackson and then a left uppercut and right hand to the body leaving the visitor looking a little banged up as the bell sounded.
It was a quieter fourth as Frampton used his sublime footwork to manoeuvre around Jackson’s attacks and then counter him with sharp, jolting shots. A long reaching right found its home on Jackson’s head and then as the two men traded hooks it was Frampton who landed whilst his opponent’s shot sailed wide of its intended mark.
Jackson was game and trying to make a fight of it, his resiliency and toughness clear as day, but he was already becoming a bit of a punchbag by the fifth. Frampton was dictating the pace and whenever he wanted to land a shot, he did exactly that, smashing his left hand to the body frequently whilst countering with sharp uppercuts when Jackson worked up the muster to come looking for it. A right hand sank into the ribcage of Jackson at the end of the fifth round caused a big gulp of air from the former undefeated fighter, Frampton hoping that work would pay dividends the longer the fight went.
Jackson just could not find any rhythm and in the sixth he was pushed back and pummelled against the ropes, Frampton’s deceiving strength becoming more and more of a factor. A right hand did land from Jackson, a mere flicker of success, but Frampton didn’t even acknowledge it and then answered back with a right hook and huge uppercut through the guard that snapped the Aussie’s head back in a whiplash manner.
The rain was pouring in Belfast at this point but the crowd were undeterred in their support as they continued to will their hometown here on; Frampton glad to oblige as he continued to hammer away at the body of Jackson with sickening frequency. Jackson was landing a little more, nothing to swing the fight, but that was more down to the fact that Frampton was stepping into range now to put on a show for his vociferous following.
Jackson’s face was swollen and bruised heading into the eighth and he was eating yet more uppercuts and sharp hooks around his guard but still he was refusing to wilt under the pressure until Frampton hit a quick left uppercut and then drove home a left hook to the body that sent him down to the canvass for the first time. Jackson was winded and hurting bad but he beat the count and managed to survive until the end of the round, credit must be given for his toughness.
Not only did Jackson survive but he also came out swinging in the ninth, anything to keep Frampton at bay, but soon Frampton had his man going again with a booming right hand to the body as Jackson sagged against the ropes. Jackson was doubled in agony and tried to pull clear but Frampton followed up with an unanswered barrage which prompted the away corner to throw in the towel.
It was a terrific, calculated performance from Carl Frampton, who looked as deadly as he has done in his career, and he will now be heading straight for a world championship fight by the end of the calendar year. A fight with Josh Warrington for the IBF Featherweight strap has been mooted for December whilst he also now finds himself mandatory challenger to WBO kingpin Oscar Valdez.
Tyson Fury’s comeback trail continued with an expected victory over Francesco Pianeta boxing his way to a very comfortable, drab ten round decision.
Fury looked much sharper than he did last time out and it was a far more accomplished performance, although that wasn’t exactly difficult given the circus that we witnessed in April.
Pianeta was coming forward but offering very little in the way of offense as Fury was able to bob around and work his jab, hitting the body and forcing a big gulp from his Italian opponent as early as the first round. It was a much more switched on version of Fury, knowing Deontay Wilder was ringside ahead of their potential showdown, but he did find time to showboat in the corner whilst ducking and dodging the wild, telegraphed punches from Pianeta.
Fury’s reflexes were much more in line to what we saw from him before his hiatus although it has to be noted that Pianeta was so slow and cumbersome that every attack was like waiting for a lorry to back up. Fury began putting combinations together through the third and fourth, pawing out with the jab and then hitting body and head with his superior handspeed on display but as of yet nothing that caused any recognisable damage.
Pianeta clearly had plans of upsetting the fanfare and occasionally he capitalised on Fury’s low hands with big looping shots but his attacks were too few and far between to swing the pendulum in his career. Deontay Wilder was more than a willing participant at ringside and could be seen talking to Fury’s corner in between rounds, whether goading or cheering his future opponent on only they will know.
In the sixth the fight became scrappier on the ropes but Pianeta was able to land a nice crunching body shot and uppercut in a rare instance of success. Fury was back in control from the seventh, the jab in constant use before a low left hand gave Pianeta a reprieve and a chance to catch his breath. Fury upped the pressure to end the stanza, banging away to the body and trapping Pianeta on the ropes as the visitor began looking forlorn for the first time.
The end looked nigh in the eighth as Fury landed some heavier shots around the guard of Pianeta and although the Italian beckoned him on, it was becoming increasingly clear that his tank was empty. Fury barged Pianeta back on the ropes and leant on him, sapping whatever energy may have remained, and hammered to the body again. If Pianeta had fight in him at the beginning of the contest, it was nowhere to be seen at this point. Fury never really stepped it up despite his foe having nothing to offer and opted instead to box it out to the distance.
The rounds in the bag will serve Fury well in the long run but it was still little more than an exhibition. Pianeta was knocked out by Kevin Johnson last year, the same man knocked out by Anthony Joshua in a round, so he’s hardly a measuring stick to what kind of capabilities Fury has left. Deontay Wilder and the rest of the Heavyweight division may just like what they are seeing from the former world champion. Referee scored it: 100-90
As expected Deontay Wilder joined Tyson Fury in the ring post-fight and it was confirmed by both men and Frank Warren that the fight is on, an official announcement is due next week. Both men talked a little trash but I’d expect they’re saving their best for the buildup.
Heavy handed Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker continued his dominant professional career but he was taken the distance for the first time by the seasoned William Warburton. Crocker (now 7-0 with 6 KO’s) was always in control but struggled at times to tie the wily Warburton down and get his shots off, he was never able to land the kind of punches that have fed his reputation thus far and a lot of credit should go to Warburton for that as he displayed excellent movement at all times. It is a great learning curve for Crocker though and will stand him in great stead as he progresses through the ranks, meeting tougher tests along the way.
Cristofer Rosales broke Irish hearts as he finished Paddy Barnes with a brutal fourth round body shot knockout, successfully defending his WBC Flyweight Championship in the process.
It was a fight fought at a tremendous pace, very easy on the eye, and it ebbed and flowed until the stunning finish toward the end of the fourth. Barnes was quicker but Rosales was stronger and more dangerous, the trench warfare suited the champion much more than it did the challenger and that became dramatically clear with one big punch.
The first round began with both men happy to swap leather. Barnes looked the quicker, snapping his jab out and countering, as Rosales bombed forward and looked to utilise his jab with the reach advantage. Barnes was making the champion look crude at times but then Rosales did land a meaty right hand that momentarily stunned the challenger as he was trying to pull out of the trade off. The second round continued at the frenetic pace and Barnes was again quicker off the mark but Rosales seemed undaunted, constantly coming forward, and soon he had Barnes bloodied around the face with his snapping shots. Both fighters settled centre ring and swapped hooks to head and body before a jab from the champion knocked Barnes off balance and then a long reaching right hand rocked his head back once more. It was a good start from both fighters but the danger signs were there for Barnes that his opponent had the firepower to hurt him.
In the third Rosales took a little more control and was able to shove Barnes back on the ropes and bombard him to the body and head with several heavy compound blows but Barnes was happy to swallow the onslaught and then roared back with shots of his own. The fight found its way back to centre once more and Barnes’ faster hands brought him back into the mix but Rosales’ early work won him the stanza.
Barnes started to move around the target in the fourth and countered well as Rosales lunged in. Barnes scored a tremendous left counter off the ropes and then another left to the body as Rosales was pressing his way forward with devilish intention. Rosales looked the aggressor but Barnes took most of the impact on the gloves and answered with a left/right hook combo and as a toe to toe war brokeout it was Barnes who was dodging the big impact whilst finding a home for his own work. But just as it seemed Barnes was going to even the bout up at two rounds apiece the fight reached a dramatic conclusion; Barnes landed a body shot, leaving himself wide open, and Rosales replied with a devastating right straight to the solar plexus that dropped Barnes, agony all over his face. The referee administered the count but Barnes had no answer and just could not get himself back up.
Was it the wrong tactics from Barnes? Should he have boxed and frustrated Rosales more? My initial thoughts were that perhaps the pace set was just too high and that the challenger had underestimated Rosales’ ability to match his workrate, but only Barnes and his team will know if he was feeling the heat in there at such an early stage. I certainly feel boxing and using his speed advantage would have benefitted Barnes a lot more but Rosales’ come forward approached forced Barnes to engage. It may be a case of too much of a jump in class for Barnes, despite his fantastic amateur background, with this being only his sixth professional fight and at 31 years old you have to wonder whether he’ll return to domestic/European level to work back up or call it a day. For Rosales, at only 23 years old, the future looks bright for the tall, rangy and heavy handed Nicaraguan.
In the battle of the undefeated Cruiserweights; Steven Ward took the points victory and the BUI Celtic Title over Steve Collins Jnr . It was a nip and tuck, back and forth, affair with Ward trying to work off his jab and slicker skills whilst Collins Jnr, much akin to his father, just bustled forward and applied constant pressure. Both men were more than happy to stand their ground and trade at points, giving the fans plenty of action, but as the fight progressed Ward used the reach advantage and was able to keep the fight at range wherever possible, Collins wasn’t finding it easy to negotiate the jab and get on the inside and that allowed Ward to pull away to a fairly comfortable victory. Fight scored: 79-75
Dublin’s Luke Keeler took a hard fought eight round decision over Dwain Grant. Keeler, off of the back of that April shock victory over Conrad Cummings, should have had a much bigger showcase fight here tonight but instead was forced to settle for this treading water contest. Keeler (now 15-2-1 with 5 KO’s) was his usual relentless self, constantly putting Grant on the backfoot, and he bullied his foe against the ropes over and over but could not find the punches to push a stoppage. Hopefully the WBO European Middleweight titleholder will find himself in a testing affair next time out. Referee scored the fight: 79-73
Sean McComb was the second debutant of the night and he looked destructive against Reynaldo Mora, ending proceedings in the fourth and final round. McComb had looked dangerous throughout but got the breakthrough late with a crunching left hook, followed up with two powerful right hands as Mora was falling all over the ropes.
Conrad Cummings looked back on form as he took a wide points victory over the veteran Nicky Jenman. Cummings suffered a shock loss to Luke Keeler back in April, a result that prompted a hiatus from the sport for the Northern Irishman, but he returned here with a much more refined and polished performance. Time will tell whether Cummings (now 14-2-1 with 6 KO’s) will manage to become a threat to his domestic rivals at 160lbs let alone beyond that but for now the rebuilding will continue. Fight scored: 60-54
Belfast’s own Marco McCullough always puts on a show and tonight was no different as he secured an entertaining six round decision over Sunderland’s Jordan Ellison. Ellison is renowned for testing his opposition, only the talented get by the gatekeeper, and he pushed McCullough all the way but the former Irish Featherweight champ just had too much. It’s more than likely McCullough will find himself in more meaningful fights later this year in a division that is currently brimming with talent. Bout scored: 60-55
Liverpool’s Sam Maxwell added another early finish to his ledger as he forced Chris Truman’s corner to retire their man before the start of the third round. Maxwell (now 9-0 with 7 KO’s) pummelled his man around the ring throughout, demonstrating his ever growing skillset, and it’s likely we’ll see him contesting titles at 135lbs sooner rather than later.
Former Commonwealth Featherweight champ Isaac Lowe picked up a rust burning four round decision over Nicaragua’s Jose Hernandez. Lowe hasn’t fought since February but will re-match Ryan Walsh in October for the vacant British Championship, the same belt they drew for earlier this year. Referee scored it a shutout: 40-36
Ballymena Super Welterweight Steven Donnelly opened up the bill and earned a debut victory over Kevin McCauley, who was competing in his 199th professional contest. Donnelly showed good movement and skill to outwork his much more experienced opponent. Referee scored the bout: 40-36