To say Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton was a classic, would be putting things mildly.
December 22 marked a first for British boxing and not necessarily for the right reasons, with two pay-per-views on the same night for the very first time. Nevertheless, that couldn't halt the excitement that surrounded Warrington's first defence of the IBF featherweight title he won in such incredible fashion, causing an upset against Lee Selby at his beloved Elland Road.
His challenger? None other than Frampton who entered the bout as the favourite and with incredible pedigree behind him, including a multitude of fights in America. Defeat to Leo Santa Cruz was the only loss on his professional record coming into the bout and victories over Horacio Garcia, Nonito Donaire and Luke Jackson had thrown him back in title contention.
As a result, it was an incredibly tough task for Warrington to move straight into a fight with Frampton, especially when there were much easier fights on the radar. However, in the spirit of the recent Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder clash, the best decided to fight the best with the British public proving the winners.
And GiveMeSport was in position at the Manchester Arena to see the historic night of boxing, from a series of interesting debuts, step ups and title fights to the main event itself. As a result, here is a round-up of the biggest fights from Manchester, starting with the return of Billy Joe Saunders and culminating in that aforementioned classic.
Billy Joe Saunders vs Charles Adamu
It was a strange sight seeing Saunders performing so low on the card, but it was great to witness the former WBO middleweight champion having a runout. Having recently been stripped of his title and a fight with Demetrius Andrade, the bout with Adamu was an opportunity to brush off the cobwebs.
The 29-year-old took the victory without breaking a sweat, Adamu failing to rise from his stool after the fourth round and Saunders extended his professional record to 27-0 as a result. There was also a heart-warming moment after the match with young fan Denver Clinton - who suffers from a rare form of cancer - joining Saunders in the ring.
Tommy Fury vs Jevgenijs Andrejevs
The prospect of seeing a third member of the Fury family in the ring was certainly an exciting one and Fury defeated his first opponent in convincing fashion. The durable Latvian took plenty of punishment throughout the four round contest but was distinctly negative throughout.
It must be said that Andrejevs does boast no less than 100 losses on his record, so Fury will be somewhat frustrated he didn't deliver a knockout on his debut. Nevertheless, it was a competent boxing performance and there were flashes of the type of movement which has proven so successful for his brother and cousin.
Nathan Gorman vs Razvan Cojanu
There was plenty of excitement for this particular heavyweight bout, with Gorman taking his most significant fight yet and against a former world title challenger at that. There was hints of the Cojanu that took Joseph Parker all 12 rounds but beyond the opening half of the fight, the Romanian offered very little punching volume.
Gorman came into the fight in career-best condition and that certainly showed as he comfortably fought his way through the championship distance. There will be no doubt be questions about his power, but a larger output and rapid hand speed allowed him to take a pretty convincing victory on the judges' scorecards.
Martin Murray vs Hassen N'Dam
Having been unlucky to miss out on a fight with Saunders, Murray called his latest appearance on a Frank Warren card his last chance saloon. The Brit looked lively throughout the match but it quickly became apparent that N'Dam was no pushover and he displayed supreme fitness across all 12 rounds.
In the end, it was N'Dam that took the decision and there was boos across the Manchester Arena when the result was announcement. In truth, however, the Cameroonian used his jab more effectively and consistently poached body shots to keep Murray at bay. One of the closest fights on the bill, but a correct decision that sadly cued Murray's retirement.
Michael Conlan vs Jason Cunningham
There's plenty of excitement around Conlan at the moment and he justified the hype with a disciplined victory over Cunningham across the full distance. Fans who made the trip from Ulster were sure to drum up an incredible atmosphere from the upper tiers of the stadium.
The three scoring judges all voted in favour of the Northern Irishman with the full results reading: 98-92, 97-93 and 97-93. Victory secured him the WBO Inter-Continental featherweight title, helping to better position himself amidst a stacked division.
Liam Williams vs Mark Heffron
Unquestionably one of the most exciting bouts on the card, both fighters served up a slugfest for the British title but Williams was ultimately the victor after a superb performance. Heffron showed a poor defence throughout the fight, taking serious punishment, as Williams found his target with ease whenever he get on the inside.
Williams proved a nuisance for his opponent, showing great movement and keeping Heffron at range with a snappy jab. The fight was eventually stopped in the ninth round, Heffron's chin finally caving in amid a series of combinations and forced the referee to wave off the fight six minutes early. Williams was awarded the win by technical knockout and presented with the prestigious Lonsdale belt in the ring.
Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton
Anybody attending the Manchester Arena or watching on BT Sport Box Office knew they were in for a classic, but even the biggest optimists had their expectations topped. Both fighters emerged from their dressing rooms to thunderous applause with fans from Leeds, Belfast and everywhere in between drumming up an incredible atmosphere.
It was apparent during the very first rounds that both Warrington and Frampton were there for a brawl, not simply a boxing match. Warrington flew out of the blocks with high volume punches, working the body of Frampton and routinely landing on the inside. Some exchanges pushed on for gruelling periods, before both fighters were relieved in the clinch.
Frampton had to survive a bombardment during the second round, with the Northern Irishman flirting with the canvas but avoiding an official knockdown. It was in these early exchanges that Warrington asserted his authority and as the bout continued, it became clear that the 'Leeds Warrior' was beginning to swallow up the majority of the rounds.
The challenger had his moments throughout the contest, with his polished boxing skills clear in rounds five and six but he was never too far from Warrington's onslaught. Willed on by the Leeds fans, the IBF champion showed remarkable stamina to keep unloading body shots and although Frampton's legs stood strong, he began to slide down the scorecards.
It wasn't until the 10th and 11th rounds that Warrington began to fade, but he did enough to ensure Frampton would need a knockout in the closing moments. Judging by a late rally from the favourite, he knew he was losing and desperately tried to land an overhand right, only to see Warrington remain composed and fluid in response.
By the time the final bell rang, the entire arena needed to take as large of a breath as the exhausted fighters in the ring. It had been a high octane contest that refused to let up and surely cemented itself as one of the fights of the year, in the UK if nothing else.
And there was to be no questionable judging decisions on this occasion, with Warrington holding aloft his IBF title and Frampton looking defeatedly at the canvas. Both fighters showed remarkable respect after the fight, as they had in the build-up, with the pair offering incredibly kind words when interviewed by the BT Sport crew.
It's a fight that won't be forgotten anytime soon with promoter Frank Warren even heralding it as the best world title clash he had ever seen. In the end, Warrington was the winner and his sensational performances in 2018 could set him up for lucrative bouts in America, with Oscar Valdez being touted as a potential opponent.
Meanwhile, there has been speculation that Frampton could hang up his gloves, with the Northern Irishman focusing on his family after a second professional defeat. However, whatever they go on to do in the future, fight fans will always thank them for the classic they served up on December 22. It was quite something.
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