Boxing pundits weren’t quite sure what to make of Carl Frampton’s win over Nonito Donaire back when the pair of former multi-division titlists collided nearly two years ago.
Frampton claimed a clear-cut 12-round points win—the second of three straight victories following his title-fight loss to Leo Santa Cruz in their Jan. 2017 rematch. The way most saw it, the April 2018 clash was less telling about Frampton remaining among the sport’s elite as it was suggestive of the final days in Donaire’s storied career which included title reigns in four different weight divisions.
That dynamic has dramatically changed over the course of the past 21 months, given the success Donaire (40-6, 6KOs) enjoyed in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament. The now-37 year old Fil-Am star reclaimed a bantamweight belt one fight after his loss to Frampton, coming in a 4th round injury stoppage of Ryan Burnett last November, followed by a highlight reel knockout of Stephon Young this past April.
“I was very proud of what Nonito was able to accomplish (in the tournament),” Belfast, Northern Ireland’s Frampton (26-2, 15KOs) told BoxingScene.com, ahead of his own fight this weekend as he faces unbeaten Tyler McCreary (16-0-1, 7KOs) at The Cosmpolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada (Saturday, ESPN+, 10:00pm ET). “Maybe I’m biased, but it didn’t surprise me.”
Donaire came dangerously close, exceeding expectations in a hard-fought 12-round loss to unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16KOs) in their WBSS final earlier this month in Saitama, Japan. Inoue was a 10-1 favorite to win, but had his hands full, even in scoring an 11th round knockdown en route to a unanimous decision. The title unification victory came at a price, as he suffered a fractured orbital bone and fought through double-vision for most of the night, injuries which will place him on the shelf until mid-2020.
As proud as he was of his own performance, Donaire’s personal expectations were to win outright. So, too, were that of his prior conqueror.
“I fancied Donaire’s chances in the fight and picked him to win,” Frampton revealed. “He can just rip off them punches. He was relentless that night and did well throughout the tournament.
“Watching him against Inoue, I was proud of my own performance against Donaire.”
Frampton fights for the first time since a competitive but clear 12-round loss to unbeaten featherweight titlist Josh Warrington last December in Manchester, England. With a win, the former two-division titlist is expected to challenge for a 130-pound title in the first quarter of 2020.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox