Upward and onward: Carl Frampton and Amir Khan deliver wins across the pond
Carl “The Jackal” Frampton outboxed Nonito Donaire to a well-earned unanimous decision (117-111 across the board) win in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Saturday night, securing the vacant WBO interim featherweight title.
The fight was the main event of a Frank Warren promotion held at the SSE Arena, and streamed live in the United States on the Showtime YouTube channel.
Frampton, 25-1 (14), handed in a cerebral performance against who he said would be the best fighter he’s faced to date, and the 31-year-old did it with a disrupting jab that kept the Filipino great out of rhythm. That said, the two gave each other much respect in a tactical fight but, after a right hand from Frampton swelled Donaire’s left eye early in the second round, the Jackal was starting to pick him apart from the outside. Frampton’s footwork was another key in outboxing Donaire, who didn’t have much of a jab himself and tried his best to wail lefts and rights but often found nothing but air. In the fourth, two big right hands from Frampton startled Donaire into the ropes and sparked some toe-to-toe action that would sporadically break out throughout the fight.
Donaire, 38-5 (24), was behind early but after a couple of uppercuts to end the fifth, found something working for the first time in the fight. The 35-year-old started throwing them more often whenever Frampton crept into range and, in the seventh, a right one stunned Frampton into a slight panic at the end of the round. It was perhaps the best punch landed in the entire fight but Frampton persevered to regain control in the eighth, with his jab and footwork. Donaire once again faced the issues of not having a jab going into the late rounds but would have one last gasp in the final six minutes to keep the fight from being a drama-less shut-out. In the 11th, Donaire’s frantic pace of wielding hooks sort of suffocated Frampton, once the ring was cut off from him, and the “Filipino Flash” stalked his foe, looking for the knockout to create some intense moments to close the fight. Frampton would even admit to being hurt at the end of the 11th in the post-fight interview but he would later thwart any doubt in the waning seconds of the 12th, as he threw punches in bunches until the final bell.
In the win, Frampton looked much better than his most recent outing against Horacio Garcia, in the same setting, last November, and it will certainly bring great reward in the future as the WBO featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez recovers from a broken jaw sustained last March. On the undercard, Zolani Tete, 27-3 (21), pitched a shut-out against Omar Narvaez, 48-3-2 (25), after 12 rounds of listless dominance, earning a unanimous decision (120-108 on all three official scorecards) win in the second defense of his WBO bantamweight title.
Amir Khan made a big splash in his return to the ring, Saturday night in Liverpool, England, after swiftly getting rid of Phil Lo Greco within the first minute of the opening round, and by fanning the flames with his rival Kell Brook after the quick stoppage victory.
The bout was the main event of a Matchroom Boxing card held at the Echo Arena, and was streamed live in the United States on the ESPN+ app.
Khan, 32-4 (20), ended a knockout drought of six years in his comeback, which was two years after his brutal knockout defeat to Canelo Alvarez at a 155-pound catchweight. Fighting this one at a 150-pound catchweight, Khan landed a right hand in the opening seconds that startled Lo Greco and, considering he didn’t see it coming, was a harbinger of certain doom for the Canadian visitor who trash-talked his way through the promotion. A lightning-quick one-two that ended with a right dropped Lo Greco soon after and no more than 20 seconds into the fight. Lo Greco, 28-4 (15), got up seemingly fine but once Khan let go of his quick hands, the 33-year-old was lost in a whirlwind. Khan pressed forward, once time resumed, and stunned Lo Greco defenseless into the ropes with an uppercut. Lo Greco was halfway from getting dropped again but Khan kept his hands busy and an accumulation of shots soon crumbled him to the mat. Referee Victor Loughlin immediately waved it off at the 39-second mark of the first, and Khan basked in his brilliance from a British crowd that hadn’t seen him fight live in five years.
Khan, 31, proclaimed he will be back in the U.K. for his next fight and, soon enough, former IBF welterweight titleholder Kell Brook could be seen in the ring across from him, in the post-fight interview. Khan dominated the verbal exchanges before telling Brook he signed to Matchroom in order to fight him, then stormed off to the locker room, leaving his rival to get booed, while being interviewed by the Sky Sports ring reporter. Khan-Brook has been talked about for years and after the lows both have gone through over the past few years, they are both breathing life back into each other’s careers.