Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO
# Nearly there
Fabulous Frampton survives hairy 11th to see off 'dangerous motherf*****r' Donaire
Carl Frampton admitted he was “definitely hurt” in the 11th round, but out-fought the future Hall-of-Famer in Belfast.

FORMER TWO-WEIGHT WORLD champion Carl Frampton won the interim WBO World featherweight title with a unanimous-decision victory over legendary Filipino Nonito Donaire.

All three judges scored the contest 117-111 for the Belfast man, taking the roof off the SSE Odyssey Arena and drawing warm applause from the beaten Donaire.

The resurgent Frampton hopes to fulfil a childhood dream by fighting for a world title at Windsor Park in August. Donaire while evidently past his best in Belfast on Saturday night, provided a couple of genuine scares for the 9,000-strong home faithful.

Carl Frampton is declared the winner Presseye / William Cherry/INPHO Presseye / William Cherry/INPHO / William Cherry/INPHO

A ‘nothing’ first round was probably shaded by Donaire, but Frampton looked a touch sharper in the second: a fleeting assault from the Belfast man, who had backed the Pinoy towards the corner, left Donaire with a mouse under his left eye and blinking uncomfortably in his corner.

Boxing clever, a confident Frampton targeted Donaire’s 35-year-old torso in the third. A snappy overhand right to the future Hall-of-Famer’s kisser was delivered with such stealth that it seemed to evade even the 9,000 home supporters.

It was at this juncture when ‘The Jackal’ began to regress versus Horacio Garcia in November, but the Tiger’s Bay native put his foot on the pedal halfway through the fourth. Forcing Donaire back towards the ropes, Frampton – his probing left hand still extended – delivered a chopping right to the chin before marching his foe backwards towards a neutral corner. Tail up, Frampton unleashed a couple of spiteful combinations which troubled Donaire briefly before the bell.

He got a bit reckless in his attempts to rough Donaire up in the fifth, taking three monstrous uppercuts – one with the right, two with the left – on the inside. Frampton might still have shaded the stanza as a whole, but returned to Jamie Moore in his corner with his nose slightly bloodied.

A crisp right hand got the great Irish champion back on track in the sixth, who also delivered a sniping backhand to Donaire’s rib cage. Donaire, unperturbed, landed a sharp jab in response, and continued to stalk tentatively in a round which amounted to very little.

The pair traded rights – Donaire’s harder, and earning a gasp from the Belfast massive – to open the seventh. There was a moment of confusion where the Filipino momentarily stopped boxing after a clash of heads, remonstrating with the referee, but Frampton wasn’t overzealous in his punishment as he continued his attack.

The Belfast man was briefly rocked with a minute remaining as Donaire again detonated with two thunderous right uppercuts. Frampton responded through gritted teeth, continuing his barrage in defiance.

Carl Frampton (left) in action against Nonito Donaire Presseye / William Cherry/INPHO Presseye / William Cherry/INPHO / William Cherry/INPHO

Round 8 was again a quieter affair, with the recuperated ‘Jackal’ boxing carefully and controlling the distance if achieving little else. He was more effectively offensively in the next entry, taking the ninth with a couple of astute combinations – the first an underhand left delivered expertly after a two-pronged attack to the body, a second a straightforward one two after some tidy footwork.

Comfortable again, Frampton pot-shotted his way through the 10th, keeping Donaire at bay with his counter-jab. The elder fighter was by then looking heavy-legged, and while his right hand remained locked and loaded, Donaire seemed void of ideas.

He wasn’t. The Las Vegas resident had Frampton reeling in the penultimate verse, unleashing a series of hooks which would have closed the curtain on most opponents. These were hairy moments, but Frampton remained standing on stiff legs, his head rattled but still attached to his neck, somehow.

It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that we’ve never seen Frampton hurt more in a ring.

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Sensing his chance, and likely cognisant that his career – at the elite end of boxing, at least – was three minutes from ending, Donaire carried more heat into the final round. He emptied his arsenal, but on this occasion Frampton returned fire in kind.

Though conspicuously tired, it was the Belfast man who unleashed hell toward the final bell: as Donaire hesitated briefly, Frampton unleashed a five-or-six-punch assault to both body and head, hurting the visitor and drawing a wild roar as that bell sounded.

The fighters embraced warmly afterwards, with Frampton appearing to mouth to the legendary Pinoy warrior: “Friends forever.”

‘The Jackal’ admitted that he was “definitely hurt” in the 11th, labelling Donaire “a dangerous motherfucker from start to finish” before apologising profusely to viewers on BT Sport.

“What a nice man,” he gushed about Donaire, his fellow former World Fighter of the Year. “A world-class puncher, world-class fighter, and a world-class gentleman.”

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