All eyes were glued to the UK on Saturday night as two fight cards carried the most significant bouts to happen on the globe.
The Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland was the scene of a torrid bout between IBF super bantam champ Carl Frampton and American challenger Chris Avalos.
Avalos attempted to intimidate the champion with theatrics during the fighter introductions but Frampton remained calm, cool and collected as the bout got under way.
The taller challenger gave up his advantages in height and reach from the start, pressuring a retreating Frampton with a high punch output.
But that approach neglected defense as the shots were wild and looping and soon the local hero was capitalizing on the Californian’s many mistakes.
Avalos attempted again to rattle the champion by clearly hitting on the break but stern warnings from referee Howard Foster put a stop to the fouling.
The right hand counter in particular began to land from Frampton, shaking the aggressive visitor each time it struck home on the chin.
In the second frame, Avalos was shaken with a hard right inside and then attempted to gain time to recover by turning his back and feigning an arm injury.
Frampton didn’t fall for it and immediately attacked his rival with gusto.
The champion began to warm to the task of dismantling his outgunned adversary, who soon bore signs of punishment in the form of a bloody nose and split lip.
Anything Avalos did land in the bout had little effect on his fiery antagonist, who had faster hands, better footwork and quicker reflexes/
By the fifth Avalos was getting a two-handed clanging from the rampant Frampton, prompting referee Foster to jump in to end matters after the challenger began to visibly sag and totter.
Frampton retains his title for the first time, improving to 20-0 (14), while Avalos, now 25-3 (19), saw a six bout win streak evaporate.
Afterward, Frampton shared the ring with chief domestic rival and WBA super bantam champ Scott Quigg as the two fighters expressed a desire to face off in a unification clash this summer.
Should that pairing come off, it should be the toughest contest of either man’s career to date and appears to be a genuine 50-50 fight.
Down south in London, top British heavyweight Tyson Fury continued his march on a world title shot as the towering Manchester area traveller lit up the 02 Arena with a scintillating performance against opponent Christian Hammer.
British and European champ Fury was defending his WBO International crown and did so with his most superior showing to date, serving notice to world champion Wladimir Klitschko, who must now face Fury, the mandatory WBO challenger.
Fury was amazingly athletic for a 6 foot 9 inch man, displaying cat-like moves while employing a piercing jab, thudding uppercuts and a crunching right hand, including one that dropped Hammer hard to the canvas in the fifth frame.
Hammer, 17-4 (10), tried to solve the riddle posed by the much taller and surprisingly hard to hit Fury, 24-0 (18), whose 85 inch reach, as well as and educated defensive strategy, caused the visitor endless difficulties.
The Germany-based Romanian showed a great deal of heart during the contest, never giving up in the face of a much greater talent than his own but after seven increasingly one-sided rounds, his corner threw in the towel to hand Fury, who was ahead by scores of 80-71 on all cards, the well-deserved victory.
Despite the career best showing by Fury and his constant rubbishing of divisional champ Klitschko, facing “Dr. Steelhammer” in the ring will be an entirely different proposition for the English giant.
While Fury will hold an unusual height and reach advantage over Klitschko, the world champion is far more skilled, hits much harder and is exponentially more experienced having won more world title bouts than Fury has had professional fights.
However, if Team Fury can secure the bout on home soil in a football stadium of well over 60,000 screaming partisan fans, Klitschko’s effectiveness could be reduced.
First, however, Hlitschko must come through a defense against America’s Bryant Jennings as the two face off in the storied madison Square Garden in New York next month.
On the undercard in London, middleweight Chris Eubank Jr, 19-1 (14), produced a 12th round stoppage of Dmitry Chudinov, 14-1-2 (9), to capture the Interim WBA title.