Super bantam Carl Frampton passed a litmus test on Saturday night in front of an adoring hometown crowd at Belfast's Odyssey Arena, delighting the Northern Ireland faithful by dominating former two-time IBF champion Steve Molitor.
At stake was Frampton's IBF Intercontinental strap as well as the Commonwealth belt, which southpaw Molitor once held before moving on to reigns as IBF king from 2006-2008 and in 2010.
Frampton, very fresh at 25 years of age, starts the first round pressuring, with Molitor, far more experienced at 32 years old, using the ring to keep the local man at a distance. 10 world title bout veteran Molitor shows good head movement and clinches whenever Frampton gets to close quarters but the Belfast native scores with several hard rights.
The second frame sees Molitor looking to pick off Frampton with big shots but fails to connect. Frampton continues with pressure, landing more right hands. Molitor comes forward to land a left at the end of a combination but it has zero effect on the Irishman.
Molitor lands a couple of long lefts to the body but still Frampton pressures, trying to set up a right hand as the Canadian gets on his bike, looking to stick and move until Frampton rushes in with clubbing rights along the ropes.
Frampton increases his pace in the third, looking for right hand openings. Molitor tries to go on the offense but little lands and what does has no effect. Molitor stumbles into the ropes, ruled a slip, and tries pot-shotting Frampton, who is now bullying the visitor anytime close quarters is achieved.
Molitor starts working the jab and this throws Frampton off somewhat, unsure of how to proceed. Molitor uses the initiative to come forward but nothing lands as Frampton is too fast of foot.
The Canadian stops jabbing and Frampton edges in, hurting Molitor with a winging counter right, causing the former world champion to sag into the ropes during the follow-up assault and a knockdown is called at the bell.
Frampton smells blood as the fourth begins and is going all out to KO his adversary, who tries to fight back but is soon sent to the floor from a left hook. Molitor immediately gets up as no knockdown has been called and Frampton is all over him, swinging so hard he himself falls to the canvas.
Frampton is right back at it, while Molitor is trying to punch, clinch or run, anything to survive. Frampton lands a right then pulls a clinch-seeking Molitor around the neck, sending the Sarnia man to the floor and a knockdown is called.
Molitor misses several clumsy, wild lefts until he finally finds the target but still Frampton comes forward, lashing Molitor with a combination, shaking the challenger once again.
Frampton can't better his work this time as Molitor is moving well, landing a left until he is caught with a nice counter. Frampton lands a whipping right in the corner but Molitor takes it well, even returning fire with a crisp left.
The fifth sees Molitor moving and seeking to engage in exchanges with Frampton, but is getting beaten to the punch. Frampton continues to stalk and bully, Molitor lands a few jabs and hooks but can't slow the younger man down.
Molitor gets in a nice lead left hand but again, it has no effect on Frampton. The pair exchange body shots before Molitor is pulled to the floor again.
Molitor lands a left to the body before the fighters exchange lefts upstairs. Frampton gets in a hard right to the body along the ropes and soon Molitor is down in the corner after fielding a good shot but it is ruled a slip.
Frampton batters Molitor on the ropes and the Canadian isn't throwing anything back before he is yet again pulled down to the floor. This time Frampton receives a telling off from referee John Keane.
The Ulster man spears Molitor with a left to the ribs but the visitor escapes to ring center. Frampton gets his quarry on the ropes one more time, lashing a crouching Molitor with a three punch combination to the head as the challenger sinks to the canvas.
Molitor is up quickly but walks away from referee Keane, showing little interest in continuing and the bout is waved off at 2:21 of the sixth.
Frampton retains his Commonwealth and IBF Intercontinental crowns, improving to 15-0 (10), while Molitor drops to 34-3 (12), and is likely heading toward retirement.
Chief support contest at Odyssey Area featured ex-European light welter beltholder and WBA title challenger Paul McCloskey, 24-2 (24), seeking to come back from a TKO loss at the hands of seasoned ex-WBO champion DeMarcus Corley in May.
Facing McCloskey was American campaigner and NABA titlist Manuel Perez, 18-8-1 (4), coming off a split decision victory over Jose Miguel Cotto in July.
The bout was close throughout the contest but when the scores were read, McCloskey won by wide margins of 118-110, 118-111 and 118-112, capturing the vacant WBA Intercontinental trophy.