By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
CARL FRAMPTON called his performance mediocre - but the fight was far from it.
His return clash after 10 months out was a bloody battle that only added to the Belfast fighter’s thirst to get back into world title contention.
Some would argue that being taken the distance in the 10 rounder by hardened Mexican Horacio Garcia was a sign that Frampton may be slipping but for him it was a night for adjustment after a summer of change.
“The performance was mediocre but a win is a win and I move on,” said the former two-weight world champion, who was left with a swollen face and a couple of cuts.
“I just got hit a bit too much that’s all. I expect more of myself. I like to impress the fans as well but I didn’t expect to be coming out with a face like this.
“I expected to win, but I don’t know what I really expected. He was a tough guy, the shots were bouncing off his head. I know what I did right and what I did wrong, we will work on it.
“Everybody went away thinking it was a good fight and I got the win. I’m still hungry for a world title.”
Frampton appeared eager to entertain at the SSE Arena after his fans were left frustrated when his summer return against Andres Gutierrez was called off at the 11th hour because the Mexican slipped in the shower.
He boxed superbly in the early rounds with his shot selection and timing all in sync, and it was looking like his link up with new trainer Jamie Moore had rejuvenated the former champion.
But his keenness to load up on shots and hunger to exchange too long with a relentless Mexican as he tried to thrill the raucous 9,000 strong crowd meant it soon turned into a tough night.
Frampton seemed to tire midway, something that will need to be looked at, and was not helped by a nasty cut before a slip followed by a left hook sent him to the canvas in the seventh, which caused concern it could be close.
But the Belfast fighter rallied to ensure there was no slip up on the cards, with the three judges giving it to him by scores of 98-93, 97-93 and 96-93 and it was a win that finishes a nightmare year on a high.
It started with the loss of his WBA featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz in January and was disrupted further by a split with manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan.
Frampton has put on a brave face about the departure from Cyclone Promotions but Moore alluded to it not being so easy on the fighter, who had been with the McGuigans since he turned pro in 2009.
“I think he deserves massive credit for the performance he has put in with the amount of stress he has been put under,” said Moore. “People don’t realise what he has been going through behind the scenes.
“It is the mark of a strong character. For him to go through a training camp, change his promoter, change his management team and put on a show like that and come through with a win is impressive."
Frampton also pointed to the fact that he, as one of the big names in the division, has a “target on his back” for hungry fighters like Garcia, who was cheered on by manager and middleweight star Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
But now he is the one lining up the targets as he plots a world title bid possibly as early as April after his first Christmas off since he turned professional eight years ago.
With IBF champion Lee Selby set to face Josh Warrington, WBA belt holder Santa Cruz close to a spring clash with Abner Mares and WBO titlist Oscar Valdez also tied up, WBC king Gary Russell Jnr could be an option.
“I could fight him or it might be a vacant title that comes available if he moves up to super-featherweight,” said Frampton.
“I will be ready for a world title next if it comes. If I have to wait in the side-lines for the next one and then bring a world champion to Windsor Park in the summer then let’s do it.”