Junior featherweight Carl Frampton went from top-notch prospect to contender by knocking out Kiko Martinez in spectacular fashion in the ninth round to win the European title on Saturday.
Although the win was a huge one for the 25-year-old Frampton, who did the business in front of his hometown fans at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he hasn't reached his ultimate goal, which is to win a world title. But Frampton is on his way.
"I'm not there yet, because I want to be a world champion," said Frampton, the first man to stop Martinez. "We're halfway there, but I feel the excitement and the buzz now. The atmosphere was amazing; they were very, very noisy. I was in the zone, so you sort of block it out, but I know when I watch it back, it's going to feel amazing."
Although Frampton (16-0, 11 KOs) ended the fight in fine fashion -- and was ahead 78-74, 78-74, 77-75 on the scorecards going into the ninth round -- Martinez (27-4, 19 KOs) posed a stern test and landed some very solid shots.
"I think I proved that I have a good chin," Frampton said. "I got hit with some clean shots, so I could feel his power, but he never once shook me -- and he's a big puncher. He's a guy that has never been hurt before, never been on his back and never really been wobbled. He's been in with some good opposition, and I took him out of there.
"I'm going to be respectful to Kiko. He was a tough man. He took a lot of punches and kept coming forward. He shook my hand after the fight and he's a good champion. I felt that my uppercut was working well and I am getting better on the inside, and I think I was outfighting him in there, which is how he wanted the fight to go. I've always been confident in my ability, and when you beat a good champion like that, it's always going to give you a bit of extra confidence."
Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn said the plan is to have Frampton back in the ring on May 11 to headline another card at the Odyssey Arena, where Frampton can be expected to draw another big crowd.
Hearn said he will likely steer Frampton toward the IBF version of the world title. That vacant title will be filled on Saturday (assuming there is no draw) in Tijuana, Mexico, where Alejandro Lopez and Jhonatan Romero will fight for the belt that Nonito Donaire gave up last fall.
"After the IBF title is fought for, they will put out a final eliminator for the mandatory position and I would expect us to be in there," Hearn said.