By Michael Rosenthal
Carl Frampton: OK, Frampton didn’t look like the biggest winner in his unanimous-decision victory over Horacio Garcia on Saturday in Belfast, Northern Ireland, his first fight since he lost his rematch with Leo Santa Cruz.
Frampton had hoped to make a strong statement in front of his hometown fans. Instead, he struggled to get past a relatively unknown opponent 98-93, 97-93 and 96-93 and went down in the process.
I wouldn’t draw any firm conclusions for several reasons.
One, Frampton, whose fight with Andres Gutierrez in July was scuttled when Gutierrez fell in the shower, hadn’t fought in more than nine months. Two, Garcia is a solid, resilient boxer who has never been stopped. Three, the Irishman was fighting for the first time for a new promoter (Frank Warren) and with a new trainer (Jamie Moore) in his corner.
And, four, sometimes marquee boxers fight down to the level of their less-talented opponents.
The bottom line is this: He won the fight, which is step toward the next big opportunity in his career.
And the options abound. There are four 126-pound titleholders – Lee Selby (IBF), Santa Cruz (WBA), Gary Russell Jr. (WBC) and Oscar Valdez (WBO).
Frampton would happily challenge any of them but the natural matchups are Santa Cruz and Selby.
Frampton has split two fights with Santa Cruz, losing his WBA title by decision in the rematch. One could argue that Frampton needs to beat his American rival in the rubber match to regain his status as one of the Top 15 fighters in the world.
The timing might be favorable. Santa Cruz is expected to face Abner Mares in a rematch early next year. If Santa Cruz wins, he could fight Frampton a third time next.
The problem might be geography. Frampton reiterated after beating Garcia that his dream remains to fight at the 18,000-plus-seat Windsor Park stadium in Belfast this summer. And Santa Cruz, the titleholder, might not be willing to face Santa Cruz in hostile territory.
A Frampton-Selby match might be more likely. Selby, a Welshman, is scheduled to defend his belt against Eduardo Ramirez on Dec. 9 and is expected to face Josh Warrington early next year. Selby has expressed interest in fighting Frampton, who would happily play host to the Welshman in what would be a gigantic fight in the U.K.
Look for Frampton to have another tune-up in a few months and then land one big fish or another, even if it isn’t in Belfast.
The question marks that arose from his spotty performance on Saturday will hover over Frampton’s head until he regains his sharpness. I have no reason to think he won’t. He cumulatively fought Santa Cruz on even terms over two fights. He’s only 30. And he’s highly motivated to regain lost respect.
Frampton says he can beat any featherweight in the world. We’ll see.
Zolani Tete: Tete already was reputed to be one of the most-avoided fighters in the world. The result of his “fight” on the Frampton-Garcia card probably isn’t going to help the WBO bantamweight titleholder’s cause.
Tete knocked challenger Siboniso Gonya out cold with the first punch of the fight, a perfect right hook that caught Gonya on the chin. Time elapsed? Eleven seconds, which is believed to be the quickest KO ever in a title fight.
The punch, which reportedly landed only six seconds into the fight, rendered Gonya unconscious for several minutes. It has to be the leading candidate for KO of the Year.
Of course, no one could’ve expected such a quick stoppage. At the same time, no one should be surprised when Tete turns in a dominating performance.
I know respected boxing experts who believe Tete (26-3, 21 KOs) has evolved into pound-for-pound material. He has lost three times – including a fifth-round KO against countryman Moruti Mthalane in 2010 – but he has won 10 in a row dating back to 2012.
Tete just hasn’t been in a position to prove he is among the best in the world, as other top 118-pounders seem reluctant to face the excellent – and awkward – boxer from South Africa.
Tete said after his stoppage of Gonya (11-2, 5 KOs) that he wants to face IBF and WBA titleholder Ryan Burnett, an up-and-coming young fighter from Belfast. Burnett was in attendance on Saturday night, which means he didn’t get much a chance to see his rival in action.
Let’s hope Burnett accepts the challenge. Tete deserves the opportunity to take the next step in his career, particularly after his historic knockout.
The following would be filed under “most disturbing.” Someone with access to heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua’s Instagram account had this to say about fellow heavyweight Eddie Chambers: “U are bum … Disgrace to the superior black race! F— u.” Joshua had no comment as of Sunday evening. His handlers stated that someone hacked his account, that it wasn’t Joshua himself who made the post. Let’s hope that’s the case. If it’s not, then Joshua is the disgrace. … Jerwin Ancajas will be hard-pressed to make anything close to the impact his promoter – Manny Pacquiao – made on the sport but he continues to make a strong impression. Ancajas (28-1-1, 19 KOs) put then-unbeaten challenger Jamie Conlan (19-1, 11 KOs) down four times en route to a six-round knockout on the Frampton-Garcia card, the third successful defense of Ancajas IBF 115-pound title. Conlan was tough but overmatched. The next stop for Ancajas might be the United States, where Pacquiao launched his run to stardom. Ancajas isn’t Pacquiao but he’s very good and fun to watch, which will work in his favor. … Junior middleweight contender Julian Williams (24-1-1, 15 KOs) continued his comeback from a brutal KO against Jermall Charlo last December but it wasn’t easy. The Philadelphian had to work hard to get past former titleholder Ishe Smith (29-9, 12 KOs) on Saturday in Las Vegas, his second consecutive victory since the Charlo setback. The scores were 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93 in Williams’ favor but many believe the fight was closer than that. Williams could earn a title shot soon. Smith, 39, might’ve done enough to earn himself another big fight. … Anthony Dirrell, also trying to preserve his contender status, squeaked past Denis Douglin (20-6, 13 KOs) in a cut-shortened fight Friday in Flint, Michigan. Dirrell, cut by a head butt, couldn’t continue after five rounds and won a technical decision. Dirrell (31-1-1, 24 KOs) is a good fighter but has struggled to separate himself from the pack.