By John Hargate
York Hall, Bethnal Green - Seven months after being messed about for ten rounds by Robbie Turley and looking at times every bit the 10 fight novice he was as he struggled to get to grips with the exceedingly awkward Welshman, Carl Frampton went into Saturday's fight with Kris 'The Badger' Hughes, another southpaw, with something of a point to prove.
Carl admitted after the Turley fight that he'd tried take Turley out with every punch. The packed York Hall crowd saw a much more patient Frampton this time around against fellow 24-year-old Hughes, who at 5'11" towered above the stocky Irishman.
Hughes, now 15-2 (1), had sucked all of the pace and life out of his contest with Jamie Arthur in his previous shot at the Commonwealth super-bantamweight title in 2010 and ended up on the wrong end of a close, but correct, decision.
Frampton picked his punches and looked composed from the opening bell, while Hughes appeared to be intent on trying to pick up points on the move with his jab, staying away from Frampton’s powerful right hand by circling to his own right.
Carl cut the ring down cleverly, blocking Hughes' lines of retreat and forcing the Scot into the corners. 'Brickfist' would then slam left hooks to the body that resounded with a dull thwack. Hughes lacked the power to keep the persistent Frampton off, and to Carl's credit he bided his time while crucially keeping steady pressure on Hughes. It was a mature, sensible performance.
Gradually the body attack began to pay dividends, and by the fourth Hughes looked visibly distressed after several particularly spiteful shots found their mark. Frampton took advantage by firing a straight right to jaw that rocked the Scot's head back. It was a sign of things to come.
By the seventh, Hughes was in full survival mode. He was still circling and flicking out his jab in an attempt to keep 'The Jackal' off him when Frampton edged him again into a corner and this time unleashed a terrible overhand right to the jaw that dropped Hughes hard and pinged him off the ropes as he crumpled to the canvas.
The Scot gamely rose and beat the count but had only his pride left. Referee Mark Green waved proceedings off with an excellent stoppage 48 seconds into the seventh round. Frampton moves his undefeated record to 12-0 (8) and showed he has a boxing brain and the patience to match his skill and power.
"I knew I could fight at a high pace and we knew that the only way he was going to go was backwards," Frampton explained post fight. "I knew I could make him use up a lot of energy by showing him feints and making him worry and that's what happened. He knew the power was there and he was always nervous about coming over [to engage]. That was, for my part, the perfect performance."
I asked Carl if the game plan had been to take Hughes' legs away and he nodded. "He was the perfect size to hit to the body. I'm a short lad and he's quite tall. Naturally the body shots were the ones we were going to land with. After a couple of rounds he was blowing."
Frampton had looked like he'd been measuring Hughes for a finishing right hand all fight and had landed with a few decent ones before the concussive blow that ended proceedings. "It was great, it was perfect," Carl said emphatically, before praising his vanquished opponent. "He was hard, he took a lot of shots, a lot of good body shots. I think it was going to take something spectacular to get rid of him."
I began to ask Carl about two possible opponents for later in the year, Kiko Martinez and Scott Quigg, but at the mention of Quigg's name he cut me off.
"I'm not sure to talk about Scott Quigg because Joe Gallagher had a bit of a rant on TV the other night. (He’s) on his period or something," Carl cracked, a twinkle in his eye.
"He (Gallagher) says if I go on about Scott Quigg, I'm trying to live off the back of him. The thing is, I get asked questions about Scott Quigg, that's why I talk about him. He's the British Champion. I'm Commonwealth Champion. I want to fight for the British title. If he doesn't want the fight, then give up the belt. Simple as."
Earlier in the week Frampton and his manager Barry McGuigan had expressed the view that Martinez was potentially a more dangerous opponent than Quigg. I wondered if Carl stood by that. "Both of us (Frampton and McGuigan) were in agreement [about that]. He's boxed world champions. He's a hard, hard puncher. He's well known in Ireland. Bernard Dunne, he knocked him out cold. It's a very dangerous fight with Kiko. I really do respect him. Like I respect Quigg.
Are both fights likely to take place this year? "I don't know," replied Frampton. "I want them. I think a fight with Kiko is easier to make because, in my opinion, he's up for it. He signed for the fight the last time but his Dad was sick so that's why it was called off. Whatever comes first. I'm ready for anything now."
There was a feeling within Frampton's team that Quigg and Gallagher might not want the fight, even before they'd seen the right hand that leveled Hughes. Fights like the one between Quigg and Frampton are great for British boxing and the time is right for it to happen this year. Frampton appears to be genuinely keen; if Quigg is too then the fight will happen.
Ian Napa may have retired but another Brian Lawrence trained fighter, twenty-four year-old Erick 'The Eagle' Ochieng, displayed some of the same skills against Liverpool's Nick Quigley that had made 'Dappa' Napa British and European Champion.
For the first minute of round one Ochieng took the centre of the ring and snapped the Liverpudlian's head back with a succession of ramrod jabs. Quigley pressed forward and as the round progressed manoeuvred Ochieng to the ropes and unleashed a torrent of leather. Ochieng caught many of the blows with his gloves and ducked, slipped and rolled away from virtually all the rest.
Ochieng punctuated the ceaseless attack with eye-catching hard accurate single shots in return. Particularly effective was the right uppercut in close, reminiscent of James Toney in his pomp.
The remainder of the fight fell into a similar pattern, with Ochieng fighting off the ropes and spearing the incoming Quigley who wailed away bravely but with limited success.
Several times concussive blows to Quigley's jaw shook him to his boots and made him momentarily retreat but Ochieng failed to capitalise and was content to see Quigley regain his composure and renew his futile advance.
Quigley began to tire as the second half of the fight progressed and looked spent as he wearily dragged himself from his stool at the start of the ninth. A couple more jarring blows to the head from Ochieng was more than Quigley's corner could bear to see their man take and they compassionately waved a white towel in referee John Keane's direction, who then dutifully called the fight off – a good call from both parties despite Quigley appearing keen to continue.
"I knew he was tough, I'd watched him fight," a jubilant Ochieng said post fight, beads of sweat cascading from his steaming head. "He comes forward, he's strong, he's got good heart. But I just train hard and I thank God for the victory and I've got a great trainer Brian Lawrence."
Brian shook his head in bewildered appreciation of the display of courage and resilience from both participants. "[Erick's] heart got tested tonight," he admitted proudly. "If he's on the ropes he's comfortable. In the middle of the ring, he's comfortable. When we train, we train for anything that can happen in the ring. My philosophy is that a fighter fights anywhere in the ring. In the corner, on the ropes, in the middle, we don't care. That kid's a pressure fighter, he was on Erick, he didn't give Erick time to breathe but we could deal with it on the ropes."
I asked Erick if he felt that he might have got the stoppage sooner. "I saw him going but I had to remember to stay disciplined - not to try and take him out, because if you try to rush him you may get clipped yourself. I saw him hurt his hand." That Quigley had injured his hand wasn't apparent to those at ringside. He fought gallantly and relentlessly despite the injury - and with no complaint.
I asked Ochieng if he could feel Quigley tiring as the bout progressed. "Definitely. I was hitting him on the body and I felt like I was taking the strength out of him so I knew it was just a matter of time before I stopped him. That was the plan, to break him down and then knock him out. Obviously his corner saw he took to many punches so they pulled him out. He's a good fighter. I thank him for taking the opportunity and he fought a great fight."
Brian Lawrence believes Ochieng is nowhere near the finished article yet. "He's going to get much better," he enthused. "That was only his tenth fight and it's going to teach him so much that you can't learn in the gym. The real hurt of the boxing. So he's just going to grow from that."
I thought that a British title shot might be a way off yet but Lawrence corrected me. "We're already looking at Brian Rose," he said frankly. "We were going to fight him before for the English title but Brian got the shot at Prince Arron and he pulled out of the fight with Erick. We're ready for that [fight] now, but I'll sit down with [promoter] Eddie Hearn and see where we're going."
"We might have to have one defence of the English [first]," Lawrence admitted. I asked if they'd fancied that against another local favourite Steve O'Meara. "O'Meara, yeah, we'd fight him at a drop of a hat," Brian said casually. "If we have [a defence of the English title] then definitely after we'll be looking at the British title."