Carl Frampton has tonight moved into mandatory position for the WBC super-bantamweight title tonight with an emphatic, if bizarre stoppage victory over former two-time world champion Hugo Cazares in front of a frenzied Belfast crowd at the Odyssey Arena,
Frampton went into the eliminator with the weight of expectation, plus a potential summer blockbuster against WBC king Leo Santa Cruz on his shoulders, all against the backdrop of a home crowd which want the 'Jackal' to make a statement every time he steps into the ring.
Cazares promised to provide a live test and had not been stopped by anything other than a cut since 1999, but Frampton's walk-in music, Jackie Wilson's Higher and Higher, was indicative of a terrific young fighter who has a career trajectory heading only one way.
The Belfast native looked sharp early on and landed his first crisp shots of note late in the first round, buzzing inside to just avoid the range of a Mexican gunslinger not afraid to exchange at close quarters.
In the second round Frampton caught Cazares with a low blow which required a momentary stoppage, greeted by loud boos from a partisan home crowd, but that proved to be the least of the 36-year-old visitors' worries as he got caught by a peach of a left hook soon after regaining his senses.
Frampton uncorked a world-class shot which sent his senior foe crashing to the canvas, although he soon regrouped to one knee and stared towards referee's Victor Loughlin's count.
Loughin stopped down to show Cazares his count quite clearly, but despite fighting for the 50th time the southpaw looked a beaten man and strangely decided against returning to his feet.
That odd move should take nothing away from the forceful shot that delivered Frampton his 18th successive victory as a professional, plus a prized position as chief challenger to Santa Cruz.
Hopes are high that a summer world-title showdown in Belfast can be swiftly arranged by Frampton's promoter and mentor Barry McGuigan, but regardless of where a future fight takes place the Jackal is on the cusp of carving out his own name in Irish fighting folklore if his ascent towards the top of a talent-rich super-bantamweight division continues.
The 27-year-old was ecstatic but considered at ringside after delivering victory, declaring: "It was a great performance, a one punch knockout against a guy who hasn't been stopped since 1999.
"He said he misread the count but he didn't get up. Leo Santa Cruz is someone I admire but I want that fight, it's something I hope we can get done very quickly.
"I picked the song [Higher and higher] because of the support I get from Belfast, all over Ireland really is amazing. I'm humble and very grateful to the people that spend their hard-earned money to watch me fight, I hope they can do the same for Santa Cruz in the summer."
Domestic arch-rival Scott Quigg has moved in his own path and picked up a WBA title in the process, but Frampton has a vociferous support to match his skills and give Northern Ireland a world champion of their own to celebrate on this evidence before the end of 2014.
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