Carl Frampton came out on top of the long awaited super bantamweight unification fight with Bury's Scott Quigg on Saturday night in the Manchester Arena.
Frampton came into the fight as the unbeaten IBF champion while Quigg was also unbeaten and held the WBA version of the super bantamweight title. Despite being the home fighter Quigg's fans were outnumbered with the majority of the fans in attendance supporting Frampton, many of whom had made the journey across the Irish Sea from Ireland.
There had been a lot said in the build up to the fight with both fighters confident of knocking the other out but the fight got off to a slow start with both clearly showing maximum respect to the others punching power. Quigg in particular looked lacklustre for the majority of the first six rounds with Frampton staying well out of reach and just showing that little bit more aggression to persuade the judges to give him the rounds. Quigg finally livened up in the second half of the fight after trainer, Joe Gallagher advised him that Sky, who were covering the fight, had him well behind on the score cards.
In the second half of the fight Quigg finally engaged with Frampton which prompted some good exchanges and he was finally picking up some rounds as the two traded blows. Quigg had his best round of the fight in the 11th when he caught Frampton with a superb right that rocked the Belfast man. Unfortunately for Quigg the two tangled up after the punch landed and just as Quigg wriggled free to go for the kill the referee stepped in to separate them which gave Frampton the split second he needed to clear his head.
That was as good as it got for Quigg and despite being hurt in the 11th Frampton saved his best round for last. Straight from the bell he went on the offensive and completely outboxed Quigg who was restricted to a few wild swings but he couldn't get close to the Belfast man until the two embraced as the final bell rang out to end the fight.
The vast majority of fans inside the arena and watching around the world were left in little doubt that Frampton had done enough to win the fight but there was time for one more twist when Michael Buffer announced that Judge Levi Martinez had scored the fight to Quigg. However, there would be no controversy as Carlos Sucre and Dave Parris both gave Frampton the nod by a margin of four rounds much to the delight of the travelling fans.
Where was the fight won and lost?
There can be little doubt that Quigg lost the fight in the opening rounds. He offered very little in the first half of the fight and to hear his trainer say that he thought the fight was level after four rounds is a huge surprise. Joe Gallagher has just been crowned Ring Magazine's Trainer of the Year and he has a strong stable with multiple world champions but he had a very poor night at the office on Saturday. Perhaps the biggest surprise is he had to rely on Sky's commentators at ringside before he made changes. Had Quigg started on the front foot would the result have been different? We will never know but quite how he tried to compare Quigg's performance to Floyd Mayweather's against Manny Pacquiao is a mystery. There can be no doubt that Quigg wasn't hit cleanly with too much apart from the shot that broke his jaw but the difference in the fighters was while Frampton also looked to box on the back foot he was throwing a lot more than Quigg and judges will always side with the busier fighter in the quiet rounds.
There was a bit of ill feeling between the two trainers before the fight with Gallagher and Shane McGuigan having digs and jibes at each other before a shoving match at the weigh in but there can be no doubt that McGuigan got the better of it on this occasion. McGuigan didn't have a lot to do during the fight but he got the tactics spot on before and the fact Gallagher couldn't see how little Quigg was doing until someone else had to tell him was a massive own goal. Gallagher is too good a trainer not to bounce back but he has to take a large share of responsibility for Quigg's defeat.
What next for the fighters?
The winner of this fight was always going to be in a great position as a unified world champion who just won one of the biggest fights between two super bantamweights ever saw in Europe. Frampton is the man who now gets to move forward as a double champion while Quigg is left with the job of rebuilding after a devastating defeat.
The first task for Frampton and his team will be negotiating with the WBA and IBF to see if they can resolve what is an awkward situation with both governing bodies ordering mandatory defences for the winner of this bout. The WBA want Frampton to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux while the IBF want him to take on Shingo Wake. In truth Frampton and his team probably don't want to take on either as at this stage they will probably go where the money is and that would mean a fight in the USA against Leo Santa Cruz who is the WBA featherweight champion or another domestic dust up with Lee Selby who holds the IBF featherweight crown. Both fights would see Frampton move up a weight but he has often spoke of the strain of being in training camps away from his wife and young children so ultimately it's going to come down to whatever will make him the most money as otherwise the sacrifice isn't really worth it. Santa Cruz appears to be the preferred choice but Selby would be a great alternative as the fight could really catch the imagination of the public in much the same way this fight did and with Frampton's increasing popularity there's no reason they couldn't sell out a football stadium and no doubt many tens of thousands of people would buy it on pay for view.
Things aren't quite as straight forward for Quigg as the loser in the fight although he will have won quite a few new fans with a gutsy display in the later rounds combined with the news that he fought two thirds of the fight with a broken jaw. While Frampton got his hand raised at the end of the 12 rounds Quigg probably earned more respect than his opponent with many believing he was several levels below the Belfast man. Quigg's biggest enemy over the coming weeks and months will be himself after suffering his first loss as a professional. It is well known that Quigg lives and breathes boxing and he will be desperate to get back into the ring but because of the injury he will now be sidelined for a period. The last thing Quigg needs is time to sit around and dwell on the defeat and in many ways this is worse because he boxed so well in the later rounds and his mind will be full of what could have been if he had made a better start to the fight.
Quigg's promoter, Eddie Hearn has said that he has four possible options for Quigg's next fight and they all involve world titles which is great for the Bury man but a broken jaw is a very serious injury to a boxer and he will most likely need a tune up fight to get any doubts out his mind that the injury is sufficiently healed. There's also talk of a rematch which if the money is right could of course take place down the line but it's unlikely that there will be much of a clamour for it immediately as Frampton was a clear and deserved winner.
All the talk of future opponents, rematches and career paths will no doubt be put on the back burner for a few weeks anyway with both fighters taking well earned breaks after what was a gruelling four month build up to the fight and while it wasn't the epic we hoped for it has set the tone for what should be a huge 2016 for domestic boxing.