The party in the Odyssey was already in full swing by the time Carl Frampton bounced into the ring with Jackie Wilson’s lyrics and the love of all in attendance lifting him higher and higher. Those that had been in their seats for hours had been buoyed by the sight of Irish fighter after Irish fighter deliver decisive victories. Others had chosen to prepare for the main event by offering libations to Carl in the surrounding bars. If those punters were lucky, they arrived just in time to see Eamonn O’Kane land the sort of blow onto Alvaro Gaona’s nose that Daffy Duck used to regularly receive from a shot gun blast in the 1950s. Gaona is still trying to locate his own beak which did a few 360 degree revolutions of his bewildered head.
With a “God bless, touch gloves” from Scottish referee Victor Loughlin, the final stage of the quest to become the mandatory challenger for Leo Santa Cruz’s WBC super-bantamweight title began.
It appeared Frampton used the first round of the fight as a last minute reconnaissance mission. As a converted southpaw, Hugo Cazares is an adept switch-hitter and having not been stopped this century, he’s as tough as you’d expect a Mexican veteran to be. Frampton spent the first three minutes using a straight left arm to confirm the distance Cazares’ block would be when it came time to knock it off. He looked to be setting things up for a big right hand finish, but in fact it was his left, and Victor Loughlin’s ring finger, that would prove decisive.
Frampton’s ring walk anthem for the night was taken from an album named Until My Heart Caves In. But it was Cazares’ head that nearly caved in half way through the second round. In the corner, Shane McGuigan had just told his charge he was waiting too long to throw his shots. Don’t delay he said, “just ping it in”. Ping it in he certainly did.
A minute into the round Frampton landed an accidental low blow onto Cazares’ leg. It didn’t look like much although the Mexican milked it for all it was worth. Following 30 seconds of the type of stretches last seen in a Jane Fonda aerobics video, the action re-started. And then ended.
Frampton borrowed Joe Frazier’s left arm to throw a murderous hook that thundered into his opponent’s temple and surged through his core into his legs. With his brain still wondering what just happened, his legs bolted and sent the upper half of his body into and almost through the ropes. From his hands and two knees, Cazares rose to join the referee on one knee in time to hear and see Loughlin take up the count at four. At this point the Mexican was still clearly dazed and confused.
Six seconds later and he was striding about the ring in disbelief. Cinco, five fingers. Seis, six fingers. Siete, seven fingers. Ocho, eight fingers and a cue for Cazares to put a hand on his hip and smile over to Frampton with his best “I’m not hurt” face on. Nueve, a wave of two Scottish hands and it’s all over.
Cazares was livid and will no doubt protest all the way back home to Mexico. He is nicknamed The Incredible, but now he was more The Incredulous. There were echoes of Malik Scott’s controversial count-out against Dereck Chisora last summer when many felt the ref called a halt a fraction too early and that Scott could have continued.
In truth, I think Victor Loughlin did not signal the count clearly enough with his finger gestures last night. Cazares was down for at least a full ten seconds, but if he was relying upon the referees ten fingers for guidance, he has a right to question whether they count to diez differently in Paisley than Los Mochis. I also think Cazares had gathered his senses to an extent that, with his experience, he could have made it through the rest of the round and into the 30 seconds of respite on his stool.
At this point a reality check is needed however. Chisora put Scott down with a typically clumsy clubbing blow to the back of the neck. It was not nominated for any shot of the year awards. Frampton put Cazares down with a left hook from hell that landed cleanly on the temple. Scott may have made it to the end of his fight had he been given the chance. Cazares would have merely delayed the inevitable with a couple more minutes of punishment. In the cold light of a Belfast spring day, he may privately acknowledge that Victor Loughlin did him a favour.
And so on marches the very special Carl Frampton. Despite murmurings from the great Guillermo Rigondeaux’s camp last night, WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz is surely next. The only question is when and where. Carl mentioned the summer and all involved with Cyclone Promotions would love to put it on in Belfast. Outdoors now as there isn’t a building in the country big enough to contain the support the Tiger’s Bay boy has. More than 20,000 packing Ravenhill rugby ground is one option. The Balmoral Showgrounds is another. Wherever: build it and they will come.
Victory against Santa Cruz and maybe then we can start dreaming about The Jackal v El Chacal…