At the elite level of boxing a fighters temperament is probably just as important as the natural talent they possess.
The ability to consistently handle and thrive under pressure is often the distinguishing factor between a really good fighter and a great fighter.
The pressure attached to a fighters first shot at a world title is immense for many reasons, not least because it is the final step a boxer must take towards fulfilling a dream and justifying a lifetime worth of hard work and dedication.
Just as importantly, though, the pressure is so much more intensified for the challenger because the champion they face is normally a huge step up in class to any opponent they have faced at any other stage of their journey.
The cliché that a young challenger is ‘untested’ is so routinely used because it is invariably true- it is hard to tell from the half-way point if someone will make it to the top of the mountain. In prizefighting there is rarely any real preparation, it is normally a sink or swim scenario. Some wither under the lights whereas others find out they are the wheat and not the chaff.
Yet on Saturday night in Belfast, Carl Frampton faced a pretty unique situation in that he already proved that he could beat the champion by knocking out Kiko Martinez in Belfast six months before the little Spaniard won the IBF title against Jhonatan Romero.
The great paradox of Frampton’s previous victory over Martinez was that it intensified the pressure rather than relieve the tension, as anything but a victory in the rematch would have been considered abject failure.
The Belfast boxer’s fans didn’t just have blind faith that Frampton would win his first world title- they fully expected him to do so. Defeat simply wasn’t an option in front of 16,000 expectant punters who packed into the Titanic Quarter, and that is what makes Frampton’s punch perfect performance against Martinez so impressive.
He didn’t just handle the pressure he managed to put together everything he learned from a whole a body of work into 36 beautiful minutes to deliver a display befitting of his wildest boyhood dreams. Frampton is a supremely talented technician, and is part of the rare breed of boxer-puncher’s who possess real ring intellect as well.
Icing on the cake
Such a dominate performance was the icing on the cake of an incredible journey for Frampton who has reached the pinnacle of the sport in only his 19th professional contest. However, now he is at the summit, it will only get tougher, the pressure more intense, as the best fighters in the bantamweight divisions are now targeting a shot at his coveted IBF title. Make no mistake Carl Frampton is now a massive draw in boxing, especially due to his loyal following which brings in the big crowds and the big money.
Even former three division world champion Abner Mares tweeted in the aftermath of Frampton’s victory of Martinez that he wants to move down in weight to face the newly minted IBF super bantamweight champion.
The vultures are circling, but the ‘Jackal’ has proved he can handle the pressure that comes with the territory of being a world champion. Just as importantly, his stunning performance on Saturday night proved he also has the talent remain at the top for a long time.