Declan Warrington ringside at York Hall: Belfast's Carl Frampton defended his Commonwealth super-bantamweight title at York Hall with a sensational seventh round knockout of Kris Hughes.
In doing so, Frampton justified the significant promotion given to him by manager Barry McGuigan and took one step closer to a potential ‘Battle of Britain’ with British champion Scott Quigg.
Fleet of foot, well balanced and aggressive, Frampton (8st 9lbs 8oz) boxed intelligently, making Hughes miss with ease and landing with the comfort of a hitman assassinating his target. In the build-up to the fight, Frampton had said of Quigg: “If I ever fought him I know that I would beat him,” and so it appeared on this evidence with the ‘Jackal’ showing a dimension the Manchester man has yet to face in his own 23-fight career, though one strongly suspects both men have yet had to perform anywhere near their best.
Hughes (8st 9lb 1oz) looked out of his depth from the opening round as Frampton’s superior quality instantly showed. The Belfast-born boxer always looked to be a step ahead of Scotsman Hughes and boxed with a maturity that belied the reality that this was just his 12th professional outing. Indeed, by the end of the opening round, Hughes, whose face was already severely marked up, was breathing heavily as a result of the energy sapping way in which he had missed his elusive opponent and at that point it would have been no surprise if the Scotsman had failed to go beyond the fourth.
The next three rounds followed in similar fashion though, in fairness to Hughes, he showed admirable resilience and remained determined to leave his own mark on the contest even though doing so appeared futile. Frampton’s fluidity was obvious throughout, ducking and using impressive head movement to avoid Hughes’ wide, desperate swings while countering with the right hand and experiencing regular success with left hooks to the body.
Hughes’ greatest success came early on in the fifth when he connected with a combination though even then Frampton looked unaffected and blocked further punches before resuming control of the fight.
The contest very much began to feel like a formality so it was no surprise when the ending came in the seventh, though for it to come in such explosive fashion wasn’t necessarily as obvious. The brave Hughes continued to try and land with another combination but ultimately left himself exposed to a lethal right hand from Frampton that sent the Scot crashing to the canvas. There are times when a floored fighter looks capable of recovery and there are those when every spectator knows the fight is instantly over; this was certainly the latter.
It came as a surprise that Hughes managed to get back on his feet before the end of the 10-count but there could be no complaints when the ref waved the fight off – the Scot in no state to continue.
"I threw the right hand a few seconds before that just missed, I decided to throw it again and it was a perfect shot – I don't think anyone would have stood up to that," said Frampton to Sky Sports after the fight.
Attention will inevitably turn to a potential Frampton-Quigg showdown but the British champion must first defend his title against Welshman Jamie Arthur, who once outpointed Hughes in a scrappy affair in 2010 but is unlikely to truly threaten Quigg’s likely dominance.
Earlier, Erick ‘the Eagle’ Ochieng won the vacant English light-middleweight title with a polished victory over Liverpool’s Nick Quigley in a highly entertaining affair.
Quigley, whose older brother Tony won the British super-middleweight title against Tony Dodson in a fight of the year candidate in 2009, closed the gap between the two fighters throughout and kept Ochieng by the ropes. ‘The Eagle’, for his part, made no attempt to make more use of the ring and was perfectly happy to trade punches with the busier man.
The opening four rounds featured a similar pattern and maintained the high tempo that was established from the opening bell though Quigley, it has to be said, didn’t have an entirely convincing approach; it didn’t appear to suit him to fight on the inside and the potential advantage of his greater reach went unused.
In the fifth, it began to look as though Quigley was tiring and struggling to maintain his work rate. Though Ochieng (11st) wasn’t throwing as many punches as the Liverpool man, his were certainly superior in impact and quality and succeeded in gradually wearing Quigley (10st 13lb) down.
In the seventh, Ochieng’s more judicious approach briefly wobbled Quigley and, though he quickly recovered, it was difficult to see a way back into the fight for him. The two continued to trade with little distance between them before Quigley’s corner threw the towel in at the start of the ninth following further punches from Ochieng; their man was clearly behind on points and becoming increasingly sloppy and hittable as the fight progressed. For his part, Quigley had little to argue about as Ochieng’s dominance would have only increased given he neglected to truly defend himself.
Ochieng will now hope to compete with Ryan Rhodes, Sam Webb, British champion Brian Rose and Prince Arron in what is a highly competitive domestic light-middleweight scene.
Full undercard report to follow.
Photos by Karl O'Sullivan
Follow Declan Warrington on Twitter - @decwarrington