Photograph: Russell Pritchard
The referee crouched to his knees and stared directly into the eyes of the grizzled Mexican veteran. Hugo Cazares looked across the ring at his adversary and winked. Carl Frampton stood motionless in a neutral corner, waiting for further instructions from referee Victor Loughlin – waiting to be unleashed so he could finish the job.
Despite his apparent clear eyes and willingness to continue, Cazares failed to rise on time and was rightly counted out. He protested in the ring, his corner protested and he carried his objections in to the post-fight press conference. Regardless of what he had known beforehand and regardless of his excuses (which were probably genuine) the count reached 10 and he remained stationary. Referee Loughlin had no choice but to end the fight and declare Frampton the winner of the WBC super-bantamweight title eliminator.
“He’s been around for long enough that he should know how to count to 10 in English. If the ref counts to 10 and you’re still on your knees then you’re out of the fight,” agreed Frampton.
“That was a good performance, he hasn’t been dropped like that in a long time. Santa Cruz said he wanted to wait until September or October to fight again but I saw a tweet saying that he was back in the gym.”
Even though Carl cannot really remember the finishing blow, he knows, like the rest of us, that it was a peach of a shot and represents the sort of killer instinct that will certainly be enough to concern the division’s elite.
“I’m a big believer in my power and I know that no matter how tough the fight gets I still have the power. I thought I would’ve stopped him after eight or nine rounds and I genuinely didn’t think that I would stop him as early.”
Increasingly, as Frampton’s stock rises and more people jump aboard the hype train, the elephant in the room remains Guillermo Rigondeaux. Carl has made it clear that he does not plan on avoiding the ultra-talented Cuban and will go looking for him as and when he defeats Santa Cruz.
“I see Rigondeaux as the best super-bantamweight in the world and if I beat Santa Cruz then he’s the guy I’ll be facing next.”
Cyclone Promotions’ CEO Barry McGuigan reckons that his young fighter is not just fighting for himself but views Frampton as the standard bearer for Irish boxing. No pressure then.
“Any super-bantamweight in the world that he hits clean on the chin he’ll knock out. We know Carl can fight off the back foot but he knocked Cazares out on the front foot. Ireland is full of talent and we are going to sign other kids but this guy is the flag bearer,” said Barry.