EVEN Manhattan can do sleepy Sundays.
But as New Yorkers strolled care-free around Bryant Park yesterday, across East 41st Street, there was nothing sleepy about the private shindig in Annie Moore’s bar.
Boxer Carl Frampton rose yesterday morning with the most precious piece of excess baggage for the trip back across the Atlantic — the WBA featherweight title. The previous night was one for the ages, the Jackal awakening the wider world to his supreme prizefighting talents with an enthralling victory over Leo Santa Cruz, in Brooklyn’s raucous Barclay’s Center.
Frampton picked his primetime US debut as the moment to turn in the fighting display of his life, downing a previously undefeated and vaunted transatlantic rival, who never really recovered from a shuddering, second-round left hook.
For the fighter from Tiger’s Bay, it was a majority-decision triumph that must surely wake up those in the minority, at home, who haven’t yet recognised him as one of the finest fighters our islands have ever produced.
Inside the ring and outside it, Frampton is an absolute treasure.
“That’s going to be a fight that defines part of my career,” said the 29-year-old, after becoming Ireland’s second-ever two-weight world champion.
“I want to be involved in big fights and I’ve just made history. I’m the only ever Northern Irishman to win world titles in two different weight divisions. I’ve beaten an unbelievable fighter, in Santa Cruz, a three-weight world champion, and it was the toughest fight of my career. I could have made it easier on myself. I fought with my heart, rather than my head, sometimes, but I think people will remember that for a very long time.”
That they will. This was a classic from the off, a bewitching spectacle that flew by in ferocious flurries and blurring exchanges. Two or three times afterwards, Frampton referenced fighting with his heart, but the head was prominent, too.
The Jackal strayed from trainer Shane McGuigan’s tactical masterstroke, at times, but never too far from the blueprint and rarely into serious danger. His footwork was a privilege to behold, his switching-up of evasiveness and aggression stunting Santa Cruz for long stretches.
It would take ten more rounds of discipline and dynamism — and a late scare in the 11th, when Frampton walked into a huge right hand — before victory was confirmed on scorecards of 117-111, 116-112, and 114-114.
But that crushing left, with less than a minute to go in the second round, was the fight’s defining moment, Santa Cruz staggering back on his heels, only the ropes saving him from being downed for the first time in seven years.
He survived that assault, but the war was only going to go one way after that.
“I looked at the officials, asking for something,” said McGuigan. “I am so proud of Shane and I know my brother in heaven was sitting on my shoulder, willing this to happen. He knew how important this was to me and my father is up there, too. I was praying to him, to keep Carl out of danger. They will be partying with the angels.”
One of the greatest nights in Irish boxing, it was strung together by tight family bonds. As TV cameras panned to the triumphant dressingroom afterwards — with Rory McIlroy joining his countryman backstage — good-luck messages from the Jackal’s children, Carla and Rossa, could be seen hanging on the walls.
“I had a drawing from my son, which I hung in the dressing room,” said Frampton, who had spoken all week about the business aspects of this fight and providing for his family once his gloves are hung up. “It was a wee thing he did at nursery. I always like to stick a few pictures up and some good-luck messages from the kids.
“I don’t know where my family were during the fight, I saw that my daughter was crying a little bit, but it was great to have them here and see me making history.”
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