Carl Frampton (25-1, 14KOs) picked up the WBO interim featherweight title after a dominant display against Philippine veteran Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24KOs).
All three judges scored the fight exactly the same 117-111 all in favour of the hometown fighter.
The 31-year-old produced a performance that was somewhere near his old best. Frampton showed off his excellent boxing brain and outstanding footwork that left Donaire missing his target by wide margins at times. In particular the first five rounds were very impressive and made the rest of the featherweight division stand up and take notice.
I’m not normally one for the interim titles but if used in the correct manor then I’m all for them. The WBO title that Frampton picked up last night was created because their current champion Óscar Valdez is out with a broken jaw.
The plan is for the Irishman to now fight Valdez for the full title although rumour has it that the Mexican will move up to the 130lb division. If the rumours are true then Frampton will be upgraded to WBO champion without having to throw a punch.
If this does happen then a unification fight against the winner of Selby-Warrington at Windsor Park looks the most likely option.
Frampton does not care who he fights next just as long as he gets another world title shot.
“I’d love a Valdez fight but I don’t want to be picky,” said Frampton.
“I just want a world title fight and I want a big fight at Windsor Park. Valdez would be good, Santa Cruz, Selby would be good but whoever it is, I don’t care.”
After the fight a very happy Frank Warren said, “That was class tonight.”
“I will get him a world title fight – there are options, I will deliver. Carl and the city deserve it.”
This is exciting times for the 126lb division with so many top fighters jostling away to become the undisputed king.
World No.1 Leo Santa Cruz defends his WBA title against fellow Mexican compatriot Abner Mares in June 9. The WBC champion Gary Russell Jr puts his strap on the line against the featherweights rising star Joseph Diaz to decide who’s the best in the US on May 19. On the same night Welshman Lee Selby puts up his IBF title against Josh Warrington at Elland Road, Leeds.
Once again there are a lot of possibilities and we know that Frampton is not bothered who he fights just as long as it’s at Windsor Park. This narrows the pot down to Valdez, Selby or Warrington for me. Santa Cruz will not travel across the pond for a trilogy with Frampton if he wins and if Mares is victorious there will be a rematch. Chances would be slim for Russell Jr or Diaz to make the trip but not completely off the table.
A lot will depend on what Valdez decides to do once he is back but it will cost Warren a substantial fee to get the Mexican over to Belfast. The most likely option will be Selby or Warrington as long as the winner comes through unscathed.
Whoever Frampton fights next I expect an incredible atmosphere inside Windsor Park with the Conlan brothers and Paddy Barnes also on a staked Irish card.