Carl Frampton is back on course in his bid to return to the title stage.
The former two-division titlist from Belfast, Northern Ireland had his way with previously unbeaten Tyler McCreary (16-1-1, 7KOs), scoring two knockdowns en route to a 10-round shutout win Saturday evening at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Scores were 100-88 across the board in favor of Belfast, Northern Ireland’s Frampton (27-2, 15KOs), who picks up his first win in more than 15 months.
The bout was Frampton’s first since a 12-round loss to Josh Warrington in a bid to become a two-time featherweight titlist last December. A freak fight week accident left him with a fractured left hand and without a fight this past August when he was due to appear in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The hand was thought to be fully healed, only to re-aggravate the old wound during sparring, perhaps impacting his performance early.
“My hand wasn’t great coming into the camp as well,” Frampton admitted to ESPN’s Crystina Poncher after scoring his first victory since beating Luke Jackson last August. “I re-fractured the hand twice in camp, but I knew a lot of people were coming to support me. There was absolutely no way I wasn’t fighting.”
It was also Frampton's first fight truly above the featherweight limit, although not going full throttle as the bout was fought at a contracted weight of 128 pounds.
McCreary did his best to force a slow pace in the opening round, the unbeaten Toledo, Ohio native flicking his jab and throwing one punch at a time to intentionally avoid getting caught up in afirefight.Frampton surged late in the round, throwing in combination but not landing much of substance.
Frampton enjoyed more success in round two, working his way inside McCreary’s massive reach advantage to connect with a right hand to the body. McCreary immediately moved backwards, not attempting to respond and instead carrying his left hand low to discourage a sustained body attack from the former two-division titlist.
A strictly defensive offering from McCreary was only going to take him so far. Frampton closed the gap in round three, forcing the unbeaten prospect to the ropes and with little regard for the incoming on the occasions where McCreary even bothered to throw punches.
McCreary enjoyed a nice stretch late in round five, letting his hands go for the first time in the fight and also putting his nine-inch reach advantage to good use. His best sequence of the fight was for naught, as a body shot sent the 5’9” junior lightweight to the canvas early in round six. McCreary looked to be done for the night, staying down until referee Kenny Bayless reached the count of nine before springing to his feet.
Frampton was well in control through six, a trend harped upon by McCreary’s corner urging their charge to swing for the fences. McCreary came out swinging to begin round seven, not landing much of consequence but at least forcing Frampton on the defensive for the first time in the fight.
The surge didn’t last long, as Frampton managed to control the pace by the end of the round. McCreary went back to his jab in round eight, far too late in the fight to just box but sticking with what he knows best in hopes of setting up something better.
It didn’t work.
With the fight well in the bag, Frampton still fought to close the show. A left hand upstairs was just enough to get McCreary to throw up earmuff defense, setting up a double left hook from Frampton to cause a delayed-reaction knockdown. McCreary beat the count, but was hopelessly behind and couldn’t offer anything to change the course of the fight.
Frampton served as a unified titlist at junior featherweight—reaching the pinnacle following a 12-round win over longtime bitter rival Scott Quigg in Feb. 2016—and then at featherweight following a decision victory over Leo Santa Cruz later that July in capping a Fighter of the Year campaign.
He hasn’t enjoyed that championship feeling since, losing his title to Santa Cruz in their Jan. 2017 rematch and coming up well short versus Warrington last December. Now will come another opportunity to put a belt around his waist, as next up could be defending 130-pound titlist Jamel Herring (21-2, 10KOs), who was seated ringside and seemed receptive to the challenge.
“He’s a two-divisin champ for a reason and did what he had to do,” Herring said of Frampton’s performance. “For a year layoff and setbacks, he looked good. We don’t turn down own no smoke. I’d love to fight him at Madison Square Garden, Belfast, wherever.”
The matchup would pair together two of the nicest guys in the sport, which—assuming Frampton’s hand is healed by then—is being targeted for next St. Patrick’s Day either at Madison Square Garden in New York City or in Frampton’s native Belfast.
“My impression of him was that he’s a nice guy. I know he’s the champ. I just want to fight for the world title,” notes Frampton. “He’s the champion, I want to fight him.
“I’d love for it to be in Belfast, but would also be game to fight him in New York if I have to.”
The bout streamed live on ESPN+ in supporting capacity to unbeaten former featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez’ debut at 130 pounds versus late replacement Adam Lopez.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox