Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton the perfect fight to end a year of boxing excesses

The two featherweight rivals at one point had shared a pot of tea together, and then fought like the fiercest of enemies in a fight that was the truly noble part of the noble art

Steve Bunce
Sunday 23 December 2018 11:05
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Josh Warrington retains IBF featherweight strap after defeating Carl Frampton

Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton put a stop to their fists flying to finally end their great British fight with all the nice abrupt closure of a sudden armistice.

The breathless twelve rounds had shocked and gripped the expectant audience to leave nearly 20,000 people standing in appreciation of their sacrifices at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night. It was the finest fight in a British ring in 2018 and nobody will stand witness to the classic without a lasting memory.

Warrington was defending his IBF featherweight belt, which was a trinket rendered obsolete once the first bell sounded and the glittering item of jewellery was stashed under the ring apron. Fights like this shame the endless machinations of the sanctioning bodies, their quivering moral compass and the pliable citizens they despatch to oversee their fights. The fight in Manchester was pure. “The fight is the hype,” Frank Warren, the promoter, had said for ten weeks and he was right. Frampton and Warrington had shared, at one point, a pot of tea and then fought like the fiercest of enemies in a fight that was the truly noble part of the noble art.

Frampton was the betting favourite to win the title, regain a world championship and tame Warrington in the process. Nobody expected it to be easy, but nobody predicted the action from the opening bell as Frampton was stunned, hurt and staggered and Warrington tried to put an end to the fight inside 90-seconds. I could provide 100 alternative and far more likely first rounds than the three minutes these two great men, both in primes, delivered. And, they did the same thing in round two.

“Anybody telling you Josh can’t punch has no idea what they are talking about,” admitted Frampton. The seasoned reasoning was based on some facts and the facts reinforce the fiction of Warrington’s lack of power. On Saturday night, facts, fictions, beliefs and reality collided and Frampton was repeatedly hurt. Frampton needed a new plan very early in a fight he thought he would breeze and control.

Frampton could and did adjust his brilliant feet, Warrington countered the changes and also adapted. There can be much overlooked subtlety in the fading art of the old game and these two raised the levels of skill glimpsed in the very heart of bloody battle that can be woven by experts into the fabric of a brutal scrap. The one-dimensional and pillow-fisted Warrington myth was distant voodoo by about round four and he was in control of a fight that was, certainly until about round eight, close on the scorecards.

Frampton tired in the last few rounds, Warrington kept the pressure on and the crowd remained on their feet. Both boxers delivered devoted and educated flocks to the unforgettable night, men and women that have been on their separate journeys with their chosen man for a long time. Some might say tribal, I prefer fanatics, to describe diehards backing their boxer like they did late on Saturday night in all their howling glory just hours before Christmas Day.

It had to end, they embraced again, a bit of blood, plenty of lumps and two entwined smiling nine-stone fighting giants under the neon at the centre of worship. We demand winners in boxing and that means there must be a loser, but if you will allow me a pre-sherry cliché: Everybody won on Saturday night. Well, the verdict went to Warrington, the title stays in Leeds and those are the facts in a fight of glittering tales.

Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton embrace at the end of their featherweight epic

Warrington has his eyes on America, a unification or two of the titles and success beyond his fantasies. Frampton was walking in a desolate place as he left the ring, shunning the arms that come with empty sentiments and having a deep look inside behind his broken face. Warren declared it the best British fight he had seen, rival fans embraced in the spiralling corridors at the Manchester Arena and beyond the guarded doors the two men sat with their contrasting futures, having left a fight in history that will not be lost.

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