Dark clouds, by their very nature, are meant to be foreboding. As the withering sun gently languished, boxing journalists and content creators of all descriptions pulled their hats down, tugged up their coat zips and prayed for a swift conclusion to the Windsor Park main event. Carl Frampton dutifully obliged and ringside scribes and officials were spared a saturated experience.
Putting on outdoor shows is a risky business. Especially in countries prone to the odd torrential downpour. Frank Warren promoted the Lee Selby-Josh Warrington IBF scrap in May at Elland Road and was rewarded for his endeavours with a balmy evening of fistic entertainment.
That’s balmy as in pleasantly warm weather, not the usual brand of barmy. No beach balls, no riots, just a new featherweight belt holder who shifts a bucket load of tickets in his hometown.
Talking of which: Carl Frampton’s dream since he was kicking a football off the graffiti-ridden walls of Tiger’s Bay was to follow in the footsteps of Northern Ireland’s sporting icons of the past. George Best, Norman Whiteside, David Healy; all of whom graced the same patch of turf that ‘The Jackal’ trod on Saturday evening as he made his way into a specially-constructed ring, in front of 25,000 fervent voices.
Having stadiums constructed for high-profile boxing events is a sign that headline attractions have truly captured the public’s imagination and hit the big time. In 2014 Frampton won the IBF crown against old foe Kiko Martinez in a purpose-built construction on the Titanic Slipways. Getting soaked at open-air boxing events is not a new phenomenon. Earlier this year Scott Quigg and Oscar Valdez fought for the WBO featherweight title in California as the torrential rain hammered every poor soul that had braved the elements.
Spectators shielded themselves from the angry clouds in 2012 when Dereck Chisora and David Haye settled their heavyweight grudge in Upton Park, on a Luxembourg Boxing Federation license (whatever happened to them?).
In 1993 two British heavies went toe-to-toe in Cardiff Arms Park. Lennox Lewis was defending his WBC title against the people’s champion, Frank Bruno. Fears that a heavy downfall was imminent caused the organisers to discuss a possible 24-hour delay, but when the fight did start, at 1am on October 1, inclement weather failed to materialise and the event went ahead unhindered.
By the time Luke Jackson entered the ring in his impressively sparkling kit, MC Mike Goodall was already charging around the ring distributing waterproof ponchos.
Jackson hails from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and a prominent shipping city on the southern coast of the island state. As you would imagine, residents of Hobart don’t often have a need for heavy coats and umbrellas.
In the build-up to this fight, people were talking about Josh Warrington and Oscar Valdez as potential future opponents, but Carl’s focus never wandered past Jackson. Frampton admitted afterwards that he felt fresh and was pleased with the jabs that were landing, both long and short.
Composure and discipline are the two key words that summarised not only the Jackson fight but also the previous bout with Nonito Donaire. The former champion’s judgement of distance has always been one of his prime assets, none more so than on Saturday night.
His main range finding weapon was the jab that measured Jackson to perfection and put him in place for the crunching left hook that caught him in the ribs and dropped the Aussie for an eighth-round count. In the ninth round, Carl was backing Jackson to the ropes, snapping his head back and releasing combinations strong enough to prompt the away corner to throw in the towel.
“Luke is a tough guy and I’m happy with my performance,” said Frampton. “Josh Warrington is a different task altogether, he’s riding on the crest of a wave and he had the biggest win of his career against Lee Selby.”
Promoter Frank Warren was pleased with himself for confirming not only the Fury vs. Wilder bout but also setting down Frampton vs. Warrington which he described as a stadium fight. However, Frank wants to run it before the end of the year, which essentially rules out a stadium.
Manchester is the likely destination. The scene of Frampton’s victory over Scott Quigg. “The fight can’t be any worse than that,” Frampton later joked.
Jackson can come again and did enough to earn another opportunity around the fringes of world class. Even though Frampton rightly dismissed the WBO interim belt he picked up against Donaire as a legitimate world strap, this was in essence Jackson’s world title fight, in everything but name. At 33 time is not on his side and the onus will be on him to cash in on this reputation-enhancing performance and snare another chance in the limelight.
Luke showed great heart getting up from the initial body shot knockdown. Earlier in the evening, Paddy Barnes tried his utmost to get up from a similar rib assault against Cristofer Rosales. Paddy was attempting to win the WBC flyweight title in only his sixth fight, which would’ve been a remarkable achievement had he not found the heavy hands of the visiting Nicaraguan too much to bear.
Barnes’ main strengths lie in his ability to dart in and out and land flashy combinations. At times he did so – at other times he stayed in the pocket for a split second too long. Regardless of the outcome, he was having sporadic success. Rosales smiled, he looked comfortable, content with the way the fight was progressing. Cristofer looked like a man who knew it was just a matter of time before he successfully defended his belt. That time came in the fourth round when Barnes threw a hook to the body but shipped a right to the solar plexus first.
The often jovial Belfast boxer -all business on the night- was in agony, rolling around the ring until referee Victor Loughlin completed his count. Medical staff rushed between the ropes and a Nicaraguan flag was unfurled by Rosales’ team as the champion walked across to commiserate his stricken foe.
Rosales, like Barnes, is a nice guy. The 23-year-old has earned his piece of the pie the hard way and it is unfair to begrudge him his moment of glory. Perhaps Frank Warren will now sign him up and use him similar to how he has promoted Zolani Tete? A future rematch with Andrew Selby could be an enticing prospect for a BT Sport undercard.
For Barnes, competing for a world title in only his sixth pro contest, the shot came a little too early but it was an opportunity he had to take. I’m sure Paddy will have no regrets about accepting the challenge, even if the conclusion was ultimately unfavourable.
In the remainder of the undercard, Belfast light-heavyweight Steven Ward used his size advantages to good effect against Dublin’s Steve Collins Jr. Some of the rounds were tight (the referee scored three even) but Ward did enough over the eight-round stretch.
Big-punching prospect Lewis Crocker notched up some vital rounds against William Warburton. Sean McComb looked good on his debut, stopping Reynaldo Mora. Steven Donnelly showed that he will be a solid addition to the domestic scene at super-welterweight as the Ballymena man outpointed Kevin McCauley. Sam Maxwell and Isaac Lowe both recorded wins. Conrad Cummings outpointed Nicky Jenman and Luke Keeler only dropped one round against Dwain Grant.
Many of these bouts took place in the sunnier portion of the evening. Fewer people, nice bright evening, no wet sprinkles on the laptop screens – it was all going along so well. By the time Tyson Fury entered the ring to engage with Francesco Pianeta, the bending strobe lights picked up the full watery blizzard that was hammering spectators caught in the no man’s land between a covered ring construction in the centre of the pitch and the sanctuary of the football stands on the outskirts.
It transpired that Frampton’s presence across the ring was as ominous for Luke Jackson as the swirling rain clouds above him. The Belfast featherweight realised a lifelong ambition on the night. Seated at ringside as an interested observer, Josh Warrington will provide a much tougher test later in the year.
Frampton could’ve made heavy weather of a lesser opponent but he was professional and domineering at all the right times and, most importantly, ruthless right when it mattered. As press and punters alike ran for shelter at the conclusion of the night, we can all be thankful to him for that.