By Mark Whalley
- Belfast’s Frampton wins a lacklustre affair by split decision
- Scott Quigg loses his WBA title and breaks jaw in defeat
- Big questions need to be asked about Quigg’s trainer Joe Gallagher
MANCHESTER, UK – After all the hype, the event failed to deliver for entertainment, but that will cause Carl Frampton no concern after he added the WBA super-bantamweight belt to his own IBF title by outboxing long-time rival Scott Quigg on Saturday night.
Pre-fight there were many – including yours truly – who felt this would be an occasion to rival any in recent British boxing history. But whilst the atmosphere lived up to expectation, the action in the ring failed to sparkle – the final three rounds aside.
Indeed, the first half of the fight was downright boring.
For the first six rounds, Quigg remained guarded, and steadfastly refused to throw punches. Whilst his opponent bobbed, moved, and threw in plenty of jabs, the Bury man was incredibly passive, restricting his output to single-shot counters that by-and-large missed their target.
Frampton, no doubt perplexed by his opponent’s behaviour, clearly saw no reason to unduly expend energy or take risks by opening up too much. After all, he was banking rounds with relative ease. He too threw no combinations of punches, but at least gave the impression of trying to force the action.
As things transpired, this is where the fight was won and lost.
With seven rounds gone, Quigg’s trainer Joe Gallagher told his charge that host broadcaster Sky Sports had him losing by several rounds on their unofficial scorecard.
It was only at this point that Quigg revved up and got the engine out of first gear – walking Frampton down and trying to unload with hard punches.
Indeed, by round nine, he was enjoying clear moments of success, whilst Frampton noticeably stopped landing anything that looked troubling.
Round 10 brought more of the same, and round 11 – by far and away the best of the dozen – finally brought the drama everyone had been impatiently waiting for, when Quigg detonated a right hand on Frampton that had the Irishman on unsteady legs.
It was the punch of the fight for sure, but one which raised more questions than answers. Was Frampton spent? Would this be the beginning of the end? But most of all: why had it taken so long?
With momentum clearly behind Quigg, the 12th round felt like it might sway the fight. Frampton, though, dug deep and boxed brilliantly against a man swinging for the hills. Crucially, he avoided the hurtful body shots that Quigg had peppered him with for the preceding nine minutes.
At the final bell the fighters embraced – for all the pre-fight bluster they’ve always maintained that they like and respect each other – and they awaited the judges’ decisions.
One scored 115-113 for Quigg, but this was outweighed by two scores of 116-112 for Frampton, handing him the victory and giving him half of the major belts in the division.
Quigg was clearly disconsolate, but magnanimous in defeat. His stock has risen throughout this process – coming across as a committed boxing obsessive, who feels no need to childishly disparage his opponents. That it later emerged he fought eight rounds with a broken jaw only furthers his reputation as a boxer with a hell of a lot of heart.
But how he must regret not starting the fight until round seven. It is this situation that must be examined more closely.
Was he doing it deliberately, giving away rounds but conserving his energy for a final flurry, banking on his superior fitness and punching power against an opponent perceived to be drained at the weight and prone to fading as the fight wears on?
If so, the strategy failed – not least because Frampton was not forced to work hard enough in the first half to truly exhaust himself.
Or was it a variation of that plan, with the intention to split the first half, then come on strong at the end? This feels more likely, and indeed Gallagher said that he felt the fighters had shared the first four rounds.
But in this case, why could neither Quigg nor Gallagher see what everyone else could – that Frampton was winning every round?
Most worrying of all, why did Gallagher need to learn about how the fight was panning out by hearing how Sky Sports was scoring it?
There is another angle to consider: that Quigg froze on the big stage. Understandable, given the hype, but a severe impediment to someone who wants to rise to elite level.
For Gallagher, this fight represents a huge blow to both pride and reputation. His argument in his rivalry with Frampton’s trainer Shane McGuigan – childish though the whole situation was – was predicated on having him far more experience and savvy than the 27-year-old, whom he considered to be a novice benefiting from having a famous father.
Therefore, to lose their own personal battle – in circumstances that clearly he had significant responsibility for – is incredibly demeaning for a man currently holder of the prestigious Ring magazine’s “Trainer of the Year” award.
To send his fighter out on the biggest night of his career with the wrong tactics is one thing – to not adjust to the situation and, worse, have his advice based on what he’s heard from a TV channel – is unforgivable.
One of Quigg’s biggest strengths is his obedience. He will follow orders to a tee. A trainer’s dream. His trust in Gallagher was absolute. He must now be questioning that trust.
As is often the case, this strength is also a considerable weakness. He seems unable to work things out by himself – requiring instructions to function. When things were going wrong, he could not identify this on his own.
Frampton is largely the opposite. He is an instinctive fighter with a high boxing IQ and the ability to adapt to the situation. It seems that – as he indeed predicted before the fight – this quality is what would see him victorious.
Only Scott Quigg will know whether his initial inactivity was him boxing to a plan, because Frampton was slicker than he was expecting, or because the occasion got to him. Carl Frampton won’t ever find out. Not that he’ll care too much.