MANCHESTER — A big early lead proved crucial in allowing Carl Frampton to edge Scott Quigg by split decision to unify the WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles. What was billed as an all-action fight turned out to be a slow burn with the exciting moments come too late on Quigg’s end.
A GAME OF FEINTS: Through the first half of the bout, both men were wary to take any risks. The normally aggressive Quigg went with a counter-punching strategy from outside while Frampton opted to tentatively come forward behind the jab. It made for tense but ultimately boring viewing. By sheer activity, Frampton took most of these rounds. The clean punching was in single digits every round. The most significant shot came in the fourth when a Quigg right backed Frampton to the ropes. Outside of some brief Frampton showboating, the fifth and sixth stanzas proved equally uneventful.
SLOW WAKE-UP: Gradually, Quigg woke up to the fact he was in the most important fight of his life. He caught Frampton with a pair of decent hooks in the seventh, and had glimpses of solid body work in the eighth. He clipped Frampton on the ropes with an eye-catching clubbing right in round nine. Suddenly, Quigg was facing an opponent who was tiring and more stationary headed into the championship rounds.
MANO A MANO: The fans finally got what they wanted in both fighters going toe to toe in the championship rounds. This was Quigg’s wheelhouse, and he scored well to the body and forced clinches. However, Frampton was never in any true danger of being stopped. Despite Frampton firing heavy leather, Quigg held the scoring edge due to the power and clean landing of his work.
CORRECT WINNER: Quigg waited entirely too long to get going, so Frampton winning was fair. The split decision? That is where we have a problem. Levi Martinez scored it 115-113, and there is no conceivable way I can fathom that based how lifeless Quigg was over the first six rounds. The other two scores of 116-112 were in line with my observations.
NEW BUSINESS: Frampton is now the unified IBF and WBA super bantamweight champion. However, this fight made plain two realities for each fighter. First, the division’s true champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux, would make both Frampton and Quigg look silly. Leo Santa Cruz, who competes tonight against Kiko Martinez, would bulldoze both with his size and high workrate. And considering Frampton’s team has a business arrangement with Premier Boxing Champions, we may just see Santa Cruz-Frampton contested at featherweight before’s year’s end.