Carl Frampton’s fight on Friday 4th April lasted four minutes and twenty two seconds. The clear mismatch, his ‘toughest fight to date’, was a sign of the ever more important role money plays in the world of boxing. But for Connor Timmins, who was sitting beside me, the £60 ticket was ‘worth every penny’, and I’d agree.
Frampton’s massive appeal within Northern Ireland means he is constantly compared to Barry McGuigan. It’s fitting, therefore, that he is managed by the ‘Clones Cyclone’, who has been quick to talk up the 27-year-old. “I think he will be better than me…he’s a future world champion”, McGuigan recently told the Daily Express. Critics would ask why then, did he put him up against the washed-up Mexican, Hugo Cazares? The bookies had Frampton at one to fourteen to win the contest; it was never going to be the ‘Thriller in Manila’.
Throughout the early evening, the majority of seats were empty. Most fans were at the bar drinking flat beer, I must admit I was with them, albeit keeping a close eye on the undercard – the star of which was the Shankill’s Marco McCullough who faced Elemir Rafael from Slovakia. The last-minute stand-in Rafael was absolutely dreadful. It was the biggest mismatch since a penguin was thrown into the lion’s den up in Belfast Zoo. A third round TKO ended Rafael, whose feet were flatter than the Odyssey Arena beer.
A short time later the main event began. Cazares came to the ring first, his music drowned out by the booing of the hostile crowd. He was followed by Frampton, who came out to Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’. The crowd sang every word of the perfectly fitting song. The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
In the end the fight was less than historic. After a first round of sizing each other up, Frampton came out strong in the second. There followed a bizarre incident in which Cazares suffered a dead leg and proceeded to prance around the ring like a demented ballerina, trying to shake it off. With 1.38 left on the clock, Frampton caught the Mexican with a hard left hook that sent him onto the canvas, game over.
Ultimately, the fans didn’t care whether the fight was two, seven or twelve rounds. They wanted to see a win, and this more than compensated for the over-inflated ticket price. World-class sportsmen are rare in Northern Ireland, so they are cherished here more than anywhere else. If Barry McGuigan can convince world champion Leo Santa Cruz to give Carl Frampton a title shot in Belfast, no ticket price will be too high.