As I imagined the seats slapping back to rest, the discarded plastic glasses being brushed along the aisles and the last heels clip-clopping from the arena into the Manchester night, the electricity of Josh Warrington’s performance still charging the air, there was time to recognise a first flush of empathy for his vanquished foe, Carl Frampton.
Frampton has been a fantastic fighter and though he may yet accomplish further before retiring, the weight of the ‘has been’ in this sentence is a burden he has been stubbornly resistant to but can no longer contest. In Yorkshireman Warrington, Frampton was forced to face the ripeness of his career by a fighter of unrelenting intensity and aggression. As had been the suspicion of the small band of Warrington believers, he represented the worst type of opponent for Frampton at this stage of his career.
Whatever the headlines of today and tomorrow, it was a performance of great skill and tactical acumen by Warrington, not just the fervour and volume that caught the eye; though all were key ingredients to the ‘pudding of proof’ he provided.
In victory, Warrington defended the IBF Featherweight title and confirmed his status as a major British attraction. Lucrative opportunities are now revealed, reward for the courage in chasing Frampton and the manner of his performance against him. He would’ve been forgiven for taking a softer opponent following the Selby triumph after all.
Frampton meanwhile, who turns 32 in eight weeks, is forced to search within himself to establish whether he has the appetite or need to rebuild his career once again. The much desired rubber-match with Leo Santa Cruz, with whom he shared two fights in 2016 and 2017, looks a much tougher sell from his current position and, despite defeat, he is unlikely to accept diminished financial returns for the investment of his time and health.
Both will presumably take a break from competition and training, it was a bruising encounter in which hundreds of blows were landed. More than once, Frampton looked close to touching down but dug deep to prevail, for all the ebbing prime his determination and pride remained in tact.
There was a sense from the moment the bout was mooted that Frampton, for all his public respect, didn’t consider Warrington an elite opponent. Whether this impacted his preparation and focus is an unknown and only Frampton can ever truly know. Last night’s performance will ensure no opponent will ever view Warrington as anything other than the world class fighter he must now be considered.
His movement, combinations, hand speed, judgement of distance and timing have all been under-estimated and he will prove more than competitive with whomever Frank Warren can lure to these shores in 2019.
And he is a fun watch too.