By: Oliver McManus
Up in Windsor Park in front of a raucous crowd of 25,000 – all out in support of their hometown hero – Carl Frampton completed a lifelong dream in competing at the home of the Northern Irish football team and, in doing so, stamped his authority all over the featherweight scene thanks to a convincing win over Luke Jackson.
Jackson, 16-0 before the fight, came into the fight with the heavy tag of underdog and despite this was determined to put in a performance to be proud of. Frampton meanwhile was cautious not to overlook the Australian but was steadfast in his belief that there bigger things lay visible on the horizon.
Dusk was settling over the skies of Belfast when the first bell rang and the fight kicked off with Carl Frampton taking to the centre of the ring and lurching out with a pawing left hand to signal his intentions – a swift right hand marked out the early danger, pushing Jackson onto the ropes momentarily within the opening minute.
Jackson, from a crouched stance, leaned in with left hands of his own but offered relatively little in way of genuine threat throughout the, admittedly quiet, opening rounds but the attacking mind set of Frampton was, undoubtedly, enough to notch up the rounds on the scorecards.
A rhythm was found with a consummate ease by The Jackal as he rocked back on forth on his toes, taking his time before offering up some solid body shots, moving with grace, crisp on his feet and displaying the technical ability and footwork that has seen him claim so much glory in the past.
Frampton was able to put Jackson near the red without having to break out of stride or launch any particularly vicious flurries – all he had to do was stay busy, stay present and that seemed to be enough to make life uncomfortable for the Australian challenger.
Big right hands, chipping uppercuts and solid hooks rendered a stiffness in the legs of Jackson and a left hand caught the right hand side of the Aussie – whilst he was off balance – to wobble his man and Jackson was being outworked in all departments, the work rate of Frampton was superior as he moved through the motions and the uppercut of Frampton proved to be a crucial punch throughout the contest before he dropped down to target the body.
Moving into the second third of the contest and much of the same followed with Frampton working the angles against a game, gutsy Luke Jackson who wasn’t looking particularly hurt but, equally, wasn’t really offering much in terms of counter punches.
Jackson, a Commonwealth bronze medallist was trying to attack, trying to find the body of Frampton but he failed to find any regularity with his punches, looking sluggish on his feet and half-hearted with the hands.
A solid sequence of punches in the fifth round signalled the start of the end for Jackson with Frampton starting to tee off, hammering the body of Jackson with alarming consistency and power, uppercuts snapping the head back of his counterpart and, to put it simply, looking a class above the challenger.
Having declared prefight that he wanted to secure a knockout victory there was a definite change in tempo at the halfway mark from Carl Frampton but with that brought a renewed vitality from Jackson who began to throw punches with the full swivel of his body – nothing Frampton couldn’t handle, mind.
With the Australian tiring yet continuing to show heart throughout each round, he began to wander more into range of Frampton who set about making him pay with repeated shots to the body and as the rain came cascading down onto the ring, Frampton’s shots continued to cascade towards his gritty opponent.
Looking in ferocious shape, Frampton started to piece combinations together and sent a beautiful uppercut followed by sickening shot to the livers of Luke Jackson, dropping him towards the end of the eight and with blood in the water, it was time for The Jackal to set finishing the fight off once and for all.
Holding on groggily, Frampton continued to target the body of Jackson with his shots now packing extra venom, extra power, shot after shot towards the big cage of Jackson were causing visible pain and it was only a matter of time before the Australian was pulled out by his corner – so it came, with 1 minute and 21 still left on the clock of the ninth round.
Next stop? Josh Warrington for the IBF Featherweight title of the world.
On the undercard of such a memorable occasion featured Tyson Fury, lineal heavyweight champion, in his second contest since returning from his much-publicised layoff and he was up against, two time world title challenger, Francesco Pianeta.
Underwhelmed sighs greeted the announcement of his opponent but, since then, the near-inevitable showdown with Deontay Wilder towards the backend of this year has seen the spice factor significantly raised and excitement abound.
He had to get the job done first, though, in Belfast and was set about doing his business without the showboating that blighted his encounter with Sefer Seferi and weighing in at 18st 6lbs he looked the real deal and incredibly nimble.
Pianeta came into the first round with an incredible ferocioty and pace to the encounter, showering shots in towards Fury but the Tyson merely swivelled his hips, weaved his head and avoided the punches without blinking an eye.
Looking cool and comfortable the mobile figure of Fury was able to bounce around the ring, establishing a convincing jab with his long levers against an opponent who, actually, came to fight and spring a surprise.
Controlling the pace of the bout with ease it was all about Tyson Fury and with Deontay Wilder in attendance, Fury looked like sending a statement to him and the Belfast crowd.
Firing shots in with a snap of the wrist, Fury looked fast, looked comfortable and, more importantly, looked happy to be in the ring and happy with his performance. Taking it vastly more serious than his contest in Seferi, this was the Tyson Fury of old and he found his range quickly, looping in shots round the guard and exploiting the, perhaps, over-eagerness of Pianeta.
Switching stances from time to time, Fury was free flowing and quick on his feet. Elusive in his movement it was clear to see who the superior fighter was and Tyson always looked like his reflexes were one step faster than Pianeta, making the German-Italian miss by a good few inches whilst staying alert throughout the full duration of each round.
Each round seemed to follow the same sort of theme with Pianeta looking to be brute in his manner of fighting whilst Fury nullified the sting with cultured and classy movement, a cat and mouse sort of game, controlling the contest with complete and utter ease, never looking fazed and, frankly, never looking out of second gear.
Taking each round on the scorecard of Steve Gray to win the contest by 100-90 the fight didn’t produce the explosive knockout that many were expecting but it did provide crucial rounds in the bank for Tyson with his world title challenge confirmed shortly after the fight – this may not have been the exact outcome that we wanted but, certainly, it was a performance that we needed and proved, beyond doubt, that, yeah, Tyson Fury is back.
Deontay Wilder will be next – in November or December – and to use Dillian Whyte’s words, “Wilder, let’s go baby, LET’S GO!!!”.
As always, then, boxing and Belfast just seems to be that magical combination that works each and every time.