CARL Frampton won the European super-bantamweight title with a stunning ninth-round knockout victory over Kiko Martinez on Saturday night.
The Spaniard’s credentials could not be challenged, being a three-time champion, and as predicted he gave the ‘Jackal’ the toughest workout of his 16-fight career.
But this was Frampton’s ‘coming-out’ party and he announced his arrival in spectacular fashion, Martinez walking on to a short right-hand that dropped him for the first time in the fight.
And it proved to be the last blow of the night as the brave Martinez clambered to his feet, only to sway into the ropes leaving the referee little choice but to wave it off.
Frampton’s tactics were clear to see in the opener as he stood out of range and didn’t allow Martinez to get in close and unload.
It was a measured approach and Martinez new he had to be more aggressive, stalking his prey more in the second although Frampton unleashed a variety of quality shots and may have just edged it, despite the Spaniard landing a sweet left hook.
The third saw Frampton control it on the back foot as the champion continued to do the stalking, the local boy again often landing first with the right hook and upper cut working particularly well.
However, Martinez was well in the contest and his left hook landed on several occasions, rocking Frampton’s head back in the fourth only for the Northern Irishman to respond with a right hook of his own as the fight came to life.
The middle rounds belonged to Frampton as despite taking glancing blows, the solid shots came via the right piston and although Martinez could have been disheartened he didn’t show it.
However, with the left eye worsening the champion was becoming a little desperate as Frampton kept working him over, landing sharp left hooks and eye-catching short rights.
It wasn’t one-way traffic by any means, though, and Martinez played a big role in an entertaining contest, but the quality of the challenger’s work was exemplified in the ninth round as Frampton turned on the style as he went through the gears.
The end was a surprise when it came though, the result of a hard right hand that caught the champion square in the face, although the preceding two minutes must surely have weakened the Spaniard’s legs.
It was the first time Martinez had been stopped in a 30-fight career and Frampton was delighted with the performance.
“I told him I’d out-box him at the start and out-fight him at the end,” he told Sky Sports. “I went in with one of the hardest punchers in the division and I could take them all day.
“It feels amazing. I want to thank everyone for coming out here. I want the whole of Belfast to be proud of me. I want to be the world champion and I’m well on the way.”