Frampton earns decision win against late-surging Garcia

Carl Frampton came away victorious after defeating Horacio Garcia by points on Saturday in Belfast, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Carl Frampton got the pick-me-up he needed, but he had a hard night's work in a unanimous points win over Horacio Garcia on Saturday.

Northern Ireland's most successful boxer has endured what he rates as the worst year of his career, but at least 2017 finished on a high, after Frampton triumphed by scores of 98-93, 97-93 and 96-93 in front of 10,000 spectators at the SSE Arena in Belfast's dockside quarter.

Those margins might have been slightly generous on the former world featherweight and super bantamweight champion, who was given a count in the seventh round and looked like he struggled with the pace in the second half of the fight.

Frampton (24-1, 14 KOs) was caught in the latter rounds by Garcia (33-4-1, 24 KOs), who was cheered on by Mexican compatriot Saul "Canelo" Alvarez from ringside in the 10-round non-title bout.

"It was a great fight for the fans, and everyone enjoyed it," Frampton said.

"I got myself caught up in the fight. I was doing all right early on, but in the middle rounds, I tried to fight him. I was doing good things in patches."

"I wanted a hard fight," he continued. "I didn't want anything too easy. It got the rust off and the cobwebs are gone. Now I want one of the big fights; I'm ready for them."

Frampton wants a third fight with WBA world featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs) or against either Wales' Lee Selby (25-1, 9 KOs), the IBF titleholder, or England's Josh Warrington (26-0, 6 KOs).

"Santa Cruz and Abner Mares are probably going to fight in the spring. Lee Selby and Josh Warrington are probably going to fight in the spring," Frampton said.

"If I have to wait around and fight one of them in the summer, then that's what I want."

The 30-year-old Frampton needed this win. In January in Las Vegas, he lost his WBA world featherweight title to Mexico's Santa Cruz, who he had beaten for the belt in New York last year.

Frampton was disappointed not to face Santa Cruz last summer, and instead, a fight against Andres Gutierrez was canceled on the eve of the contest in July, after the Mexican slipped over in the shower and injured himself.

A split with mentor Barry McGuigan, who had managed him since his professional debut, and with trainer Shane McGuigan then followed.

With Jamie Moore in his corner and promoter Frank Warren also on board, Frampton claimed to feel refreshed by the changes.

Indeed, Frampton looked razor sharp in the early rounds on Saturday, 10 months after his last ring appearance.

The Northern Irishman leapt into a left hook in the first round, and he impressively landed cleanly on two other occasions in the opening session.

Frampton landed a good straight right and used his jab to good effect in the second round, while in the third, his hand speed was too quick for Garcia.

Garcia, however, was better in the fourth round and had some success when he unloaded combinations with Frampton on the ropes, including a good left to the head.

In response, Frampton started the fifth well, but he was cut near the right eye after being caught by a flurry of punches in the last minute of the fifth.

The sixth was a great round from both boxers. Garcia took advantage when Frampton chose to sit on the ropes and hammered him with hooks.

Frampton was always technically better, and he landed a great right hook later in the sixth, but he failed to control the second half of the fight like he did the early rounds, choosing to trade with his opponent, who had a longer reach.

And in the seventh round, Frampton was put under pressure when he was ruled -- harshly -- to have been knocked down from a left hook.

Frampton felt, justifiably, that he had slipped to the canvas, but referee Victor Loughlin thought otherwise and gave him a count.

"I slipped, but on the way down, he landed a shot," Frampton said.

Garcia was on the front foot in the seventh and eighth rounds, which left Frampton looking tired.

Frampton landed a cracking right hook to the temple in the eighth, but he boxed most of the second half of the fight on the outside.

Looking increasingly tired, Frampton was in trouble briefly while Garcia trapped him on the ropes in the ninth round.

Garcia marched relentlessly forward in the later rounds, and in the last round, the pace of the fight was beginning to take its toll on Frampton, who looked to hold when he could.

But Frampton still landed the better shots in the 10th round, and he might have been relieved that he did not have to go two more rounds.

"He got dragged into a fight, and he can do much, much better," Moore said.

Warren said fight fans can expect to see Frampton in action again in March or April.

"We're not going to hang around waiting for Santa Cruz. Carl needs to keep busy in March or April, and then we're going to be at Windsor Park for the big one against a world champion," Warren said.