By Terence Dooley
“You have to get to know fighters emotionally and know their character," stated Salford's Jamie Moore, Carl Frampton's new trainer, when talking to BoxingScene about the Belfast-based boxer's mini-comeback fight against Mexico's Horacio Garcia at the city's SSE Arena.
The 'mini' in comeback stems from the fact that Frampton may be coming off his sole defeat as a professional, but had a fight scheduled against Andres Gutierrez in the summer only for that one to be spiked after the visitor fell and injured himself getting into the shower on the eve of the contest. The bad vibes had started to circulate the day before when Frampton failed to make weight for what would have been an eliminator for the WBC title held by America's Gary Russell Jr.
The drip, drip of negative energy became an avalanche when Frampton announced that he was parting company with Barry McGuigan, his mentor and promoter, and Shane McGuigan, former friend and coach, in the weeks following the aborted comeback.
A desire to get back into action before the turn of the year prompted Frampton to make wholesale changes. Moore was brought in, as was MTK Global in an advisory capacity, and veteran promoter Frank Warren was charged with putting on the showcase events that would get Frampton back into the form and, therefore, rarefied air that he breathed when becoming a partially unified titlist at Super bantamweight and the WBA holder at featherweight.
The 30-year-old won the WBA 126lb title by beating Leo Santa Cruz by majority decision in Brooklyn in July on 2016, a win that built on his split decision victory over long-time domestic rival Scott Quigg to annex the WBA World Super bantamweight title to his IBF belt in February of that year. The brace of big wins earned him the Ring's FOTY award only for Cruz to flip the script with a majority victory in Las Vegas in January to usher in what started to become an annus horribilis for "The Jackal".
Tonight, however, Frampton (127lbs) started to reverse the hearse, signalling that he has a lot left to offer at in the endgame of his career by beating Garcia (also 127lbs) courtesy of a decision win in front of his loyal, baying fans.
"What I’ve noticed with Carl is that he is his emotionless when it comes to his boxing," Moore had told me when dissecting his new charge's mentality. "Outside of boxing, he could be here talking about his family and he is different then. Get him in the gym and he is steely, there is no emotion there. Once he is in the corner he is focused."
"I've always had that ability to turn it off and on," Frampton had said when asked about his fighting mentality. "People who know me are amazed that I can have a laugh and joke in the dressing room then change when I get into the ring."
Despite ringing the changes outside the ring, Frampton and Moore have not tried to reinvent the wheel, instead opting for a 'Back to basics' approach in order to work with the existing skills that took him so far. What they both wanted, and Frampton said he needed, was to reignite the fire required to excel again at world level. The fighter had told me that he had contemplated retirement in recent years yet those thoughts had been extinguished after a few training sessions at Moore's Bolton-based gym. His sights are now fully focused on a return to world title contention.
Frampton was as good as his word in the fight itself, boxing with his usual style early on and adding bits of panache when required in order to remind the fans outside the arena, the ones who may be more critical of him, that he is still a concern to other featherweights and is back in the mix for fights against the likes of Cruz, Russell, and Abner Mares, not to mention domestic rival Lee Selby, who would no doubt prefer a fight with Frampton over a mooted showdown with Leeds-based rival Josh Warrington.
However, there were moments of concern: a few needless shot shipped along the ropes, counters that were threaded through his guard, and a nick over the right eye that was opened by a punch in round five then sealed in the corner by cutsman Kerry Kayes. Ring rust, inactivity and age seemed to encroach on the hometown fighter in the middle sections only for Frampton's quality to bubble to the surface enough times to keep him one step ahead of his opponent during crucial moments.
The mid-rounds wobble started to seem like slip-up in round seven when a missed left hook and a trip deposited Frampton to the canvas, referee Victor Loughlin crediting it as a knockdown rather than what replays showed to be a trip. It was a bad call during some bad moments for Frampton, who regrouped in the eighth before carrying enough of the key moments in the final two stanzas to secure a much-needed victory.
Moore and Frampton had talked about character, professionalism and setting the seeds for a big push in 2018, and Warren has promised the fighter some big nights, and the fighter showed elements of both to get back into the mix, but with bigger challenges ahead there is work to be done in the gym. Tonight, though, it was all about the win and avoiding the upset, which Frampton did while failing to avoid some of the shots that came his way from a game Mexican who showed guile as well the customary come forward determination.
Scores of 98-93, 97-93 and 96-93 from Steve Gray, Phil Edwards and Dave Parris respectively ensured that Frampton moves on to bigger things, with Garcia winning a moral victory of sorts by having his own successes en route to defeat. Frampton rises to 24-1 (14) while the visitor goes him with a 33-4-1 (24) record.
"It was a good fight for the fans," said Frampton when speaking to BoxNation. "I got myself caught up in a fight. I was doing good stuff in patches, but then got dragged into a fight. That got the cobwebs off, now I want the big guys. A few guys are tied up at the minute, Santa Cruz and Mares, and Selby and Warrington, are probably going to fight in the spring, so I might have to wait.
"I like to please the fans," he said when explaining why he got dragged into a fight. "I've had a terrible few months, my wife Christine has been right beside me."
"It was OK, he can do much, much better," added Moore. "It will him no harm in the long run because he got some hard rounds in with an hard opponent. He deserves a rest over Christmas, but realistically we would be looking at March or April for another fight."
"Josh and Lee Selby will probably be taking place in April or May," said Frank Warren. "So a fight in March or early-April and then the big one, Windsor Park, which we promised to do. A world champion (will be in the other corner)."
"That sounds perfect," chimed Frampton. "Frank promised me Windsor Park, and I believe with Frank and BT Sports we can bring the biggest names to Belfast."
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