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Dublin: 2°C Wednesday 20 January 2021

Frampton sees out enjoyable war with Garcia to return to winning ways in Belfast

Frampton earned a unanimous decision victory but endured some hairy moments versus a teak tough Mexican.

Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

CARL FRAMPTON RETURNED to winning ways tonight in his home city, but he certainly didn’t have it all his own way versus Mexico’s Horacio Garcia at Belfast’s SSE Arena.

The Tiger’s Bay featherweight became embroiled in a 10-round brawl with his former sparring partner, but through a solid, unanimous decision victory will be propelled back into the world title conversation – if he wasn’t already.

Paddy Barnes, who earlier tonight earned a stunning stoppage of his own wily Latin American opponent, was best man at Frampton’s wedding, and stood by his old pal’s side as he climbed through the ropes for the first time since January’s defeat to Leo Santa Cruz.

And boy were the crowd feverish. The noise was arena-shaking, ear-piercing, eye-watering; the screams from a 9,000-strong home crowd guttural to the point that voices will remain on the missing list long into December.

Frampton opened proceedings with a thudding jab which snapped the Mexican’s head back to more noise, and he continued the first round as he began, in the ascendancy and potent-looking.

His right hand didn’t take long to find its target, and some tidy one-two combinations sufficed to send the crowd into oblivion once more at the end of the opening stanza.

Garcia’s riposte was largely aimed toward Frampton’s body in the second, but ‘The Jackal’ was clever in his movement, retreating so as to avoid the full force before darting into the pocket and landing a couple of flush right hands over the top of the Mexican’s guard.

Garcia had never been stopped, and proved his mettle in absorbing much of the early pressure without looking particularly perturbed. He was, however, beginning to mark up around both brows, and Frampton was beginning to find his rhythm following an 11-month ring absence.

A solid left hand in the fourth was followed by a thunderous straight right hand which landed on the button, but Garcia – somehow – stood up to both, the latter in particular drawing the loudest ‘ooohh’ of the night from the Belfast faithful.

Frampton himself grinned and beared his way through a mighty right hand thrown by Garcia that same verse, but while conspicuously reticent to over-commit, was coasting.

The home fighter’s defence – and guard in particular – were up to scratch, and it was just as well. Garcia threw every shot with spite, bouncing Frampton’s head a touch with ‘The Jackal’ backed to the ropes in the fourth.

Frampton, though, conspicuously irked by affording Garcia some success, responded with a right-hand-left-uppercut combination which briefly stunned his opponent.

The Mexican put paid to any notion that he was a soft-touch comeback opponent around the turn of the fight, consistently backing Frampton up and intermittently breaching the Belfast man’s defence – one rocket of a right hand to the cheekbone in the sixth evoking winces and all sorts of noises from those in attendance.

Frampton was still the classier, but Garcia, watched on by gym-mate Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at ringside, seemed imbued by having eaten Frampton’s best shots as if for breakfast, and began to attack with abandon.

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It paid off: Frampton touched down in the seventh, protesting to referee Victor Loughlin en route to the canvas believing it to have been the result of a tangling of legs. It certainly seemed that way at ringside, but Frampton now likely had work to do to see this fight out.

Some Frampton success early in the eighth drew Mr. Alvarez from his seat – his screeched orders to Garcia through the ropes laughed off by those who noticed. Frampton, meanwhile, seemed to have settled following his brief stint on the canvas, quiteing proceedings behind his jab and taking the sting out of Garcia’s incessant assaults.

The ninth followed a similar trajectory, though Frampton looked fatigued – that was until he landed a thunderous combination at the bell, staggering Garcia briefly.

‘The Jackal’ finished the stronger, a couple of vicious assaults both to head and body leaving Garcia reeling as the final bell approached. With the crowd on their feet and willing for him to relent, Garcia, as is his wont, dug deep and saw it out.

The three judges scored the contest 98-93, 97-93, and 96-93 in Frampton’s favour – all three of them fair scores.

Crucially, it was a win, and Frampton, while admitting it was far from perfect, insisted it was exactly the type of fight he needed.

“The fans probably enjoyed that more than me,” said the victor.

“I was doing good stuff in patches, but I let him drag me into a fight.

“Ah, I didn’t want anything too easy. The cobwebs are gone now. I want one of the big boys.

“I’ll let my team decide [who I fight next]. I actually called for Garcia for this one, so I’ll let my team decide in future!” he laughed.

“Windsor Park in the summer, that’s what I want.”

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