Photograph: Russell Pritchard/Cyclone Promotions

Carl Frampton moved one step closer to a world title shot by stopping former two-time world champion Hugo Cazares in the second round. Entering the ring to the raucous atmosphere he has become accustomed to, Frampton was out to rubberstamp his credentials and prove that he belongs in the ring with the likes of WBC world champion Leo Santa Cruz. Cazares was greeted by a cacophony of boos and right from the start he made it clear he intended to employ some veteran tactics to help fiddle his way through the fight. 

Cazares loosened up his body before the opening round by making exaggerated stretching motions in the corner of the ring. Scottish referee Victor Loughlin hurried him out and little time had passed before Frampton began commanding centre ring. ‘The Jackal’ quickly found a home for the left hook and made Cazares change stance. The savvy visitor switched from orthodox to southpaw and shipped a neat right hand down the middle towards the end of the first round. 

By the second round Carl was timing his left hook perfectly, using sweet lateral movement and closing down his wily southpaw opponent. Frampton landed a shot to the leg that was milked by Cazares who hobbled around the ring claiming he was badly hurt. Seconds later a huge left hook landed and Cazares’s feet betrayed him. He fell to the canvas and referee Victor Loughlin moved in and counted him out. Bizarrely, despite the referee clearly counting in front of Hugo, who winked across the ring at Frampton, the veteran simply failed to rise in time. Whether Cazares mistimed the count or simply sat it out is debatable but he was still on his haunches when Mr Loughlin reached number 10, at 1-38 of the second session. 

Frampton won a final eliminator for Leo Santa Cruz’s WBC super-bantamweight crown but Cazares  was complaining after the fight that he had been unfairly halted. Even though the ending could’ve been cleaner, it is not Frampton’s fault that the away man failed to rise in time. Even if he had beaten the count, it is unlikely that he would’ve lasted much longer. Cazares said later at the press conference that he would be talking to the WBC about the ending and he was distracted by some ‘speakers’ (perhaps noise from the time keeper’s microphone?) and that the situation was confusing. He was non-committal on many issues but did say that Frampton could beat Santa Cruz but not by stoppage. 

Cyclone Promotions are planning to make a huge financial offer to Santa Cruz’s representatives in a bid to coax the California resident over to Belfast. If that does to come to fruition then Carl would have to travel to the USA to face the belt holder. Santa Cruz is signed with Al Haymon and it is hoped that rumoured disagreements within the Golden Boy camp between De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer do not derail the big fight.

 On the Odyssey undercard Eamonn O’Kane scored a sensational first-round knockout over Mexico’s Alvaro Gaona to claim the vacant WBC International Silver title. Eamonn is also highly ranked by the IBF and now the Dungiven man will be on the lookout for world title shots. 

“That’s the way we want it, short and sweet,” grinned O’Kane after his early night. 

“It’s the hard work that makes it so easy. Everything came together beautifully and I can’t remember the last time I knocked someone out in the first round which says a lot. Everybody wants the green belt [WBC] and I want to be fighting for world titles.” 

O’Kane meant business from the start and wasted little time trapping Gaona into the corner and unloading with big hooks from wide angles. 28-year-old Gaona was flicking out jabs from both hands and opening his body. He was loose and flexible and looked relaxed but, as it turned out, overly so. Eamonn stepped in and took advantage of Alvaro’s low hands to land a peach of a right hand straight to the temple. The Mexican crumpled into a neutral corner and German referee Juergen Langos counted him out at 2-42 of the opener. 

“I’ll talk to my team and see what we can do next but I want the big ones,” said O’Kane. 

Trainer Oscar Checa was equally as delighted with his man’s display: “That was a brilliant performance because he took what we worked on in the gym and got the job done. I predicted that we would finish him with that shot and I told Eamonn to look for it. 

“World titles are realistic and we will be looking for an eliminator or something like that,” added Checa.

Jamie Conlan showed any potential rivals that he is a force to be reckoned with when he impressively dispatched Benjamin Smoes in the seventh round of their title contest. Conlan’s leap into title class was no surprise but the way the John Breen-trained fighter dealt with his opponent sends out a message that Jamie is the real deal. 

Apart from two trips to nearby France Smoes had only boxed in his native country and Conlan’s supporters made sure he knew straight off that he was the away man. Ripping in to the Belgian with raking jabs and trademark left hooks to the body, the Belfast boxer gave his foe no time to settle. Smoes was compact enough and taller than Conlan, he also looked a little fleshy around the middle. 

Smoes coped well until the fifth session when Conlan upped the pressure and brought blood from the visitor’s nose. Suddenly Smoes was suffering; he was gasping for air and starting to tire. Soaking up a solid combination to head and body Smoes fell for a count off referee Steve Gray. He rose unconvincingly and opted to box on; the bell sounded at the right moment to delay the inevitable ending. It was academic by the seventh round as another rapid fire Conlan flurry landed and Benjamin sunk to his knees. Mr Gray called it off at 0-23 of the round. This was just the test that Conlan needed in order to progress his career. The only blemish on the night was a cut to the right eye, following a head clash that was never allowed to cause a problem in the bout. Cornerman Eamonn Magee dealt with it in between rounds to keep ‘The Mexican’ on track. 

Conlan picked up the WBO European super-flyweight title for his troubles and is expecting the big fights to start rolling in now that he is on the Cyclone Promotions roster. Former featherweight champion Istvan Kovacs presented Jamie with his new belt. 

“I should’ve been more nervous than I was going out tonight but I felt great. I wanted to go the distance and take a shot, and feel tired in there. The body shots were working well and I’m boxing again on May 23 hopefully,” said Jamie after the bout.

Marc McCullough brushed aside the disappointment of losing out on a title opportunity by defeating substitute opponent Elemir Rafael inside three one-sided rounds. After original foe Andrey Isaev pulled out Cyclone Promotions were left scrambling around for a new man at short notice. Rafael eventually filled in but the Slovakian southpaw was unable to handle McCullough’s heavy assaults. Blasting away to Rafael’s body and tortoise shell guard Marc was levelling out all his frustration. It was a thumping right hand in the second round that dropped Rafael who hauled his way up to convince referee Paul McCullagh that he would receive more punishment. 

He fiddled through to the third round but with more combinations fizzling in from all angles it was left to McCullagh to drag McCullough away and wave the bout off 0-59 into the third. 

“I was gutted when the title fight fell through and my head was away a bit but I’ll move on,” said McCullough. 

Marc is now eyeing an appearance at the Waterfront in late May when Cyclone Promotions stage a small hall event.

Conrad Cummings opened the show with a comprehensive stoppage of Bulgarian Zahari Mustafchiev. Cummings employed a solid jab and some well-placed body shots to put his 40-year-old visitor immediately on the back foot. Trainer Shane McGuigan has clearly been working on Conrad’s style as he resisted the temptation to bull inside and throw the big hooks as he had done before. Instead, Cummings displayed more maturity and patience as he hacked down his man with precision. After sustaining a beating to head and body in the first round, Mustafchiev ended the second with a nasty cut above his right eye. The blood was smeared down his cheek and it looked like the bout may be coming to an end. Zahari was eager to continue but referee Hugh Russell called over the doctor and it was terminated at the beginning of the third. Cummings, who had his first fight pro fight in London recently, is already comfortable at six-round level. 

Stephen Ormond retained his WBO European lightweight title in emphatic fashion with a fifth-round knockout of Spain’s Karim El Ouazghari. Both men were in fine condition and fought at a high pace with marks of battle evident across each face following some punishing early encounters. Dubliner Ormond landed the left hook frequently to body and head as El Ouazghari found it difficult to find a way in to range without being tagged. The squat and muscled fan-favourite was able to find room for his shots in the fifth and ended matters in stunning fashion.

Just as it seemed the bout was destined for the full 10 rounds Stephen landed a flush right hand to remove El Ouazghari from his senses. Karim buckled badly but stayed upright. Ormond accepted the invitation of a stricken foe and proceeded to land a follow-up right that dropped his man to the floor. El Ouazghari got to his feet and wobbled around before referee Steve Gray terminated the contest 2-05 into the fifth-round with the Spaniard being in no position to continue.

Ryan Burnett and Isaac Dogboe were both pulled from the card after unrelated complications.

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