In front of a rabid crowd of more than 25,000 as well as his next potential opponent, Carl Frampton made good on his promise to deliver a knockout performance.
It was a bold prediction considering that he hadn't scored a stoppage win in three years, but the former two-division titlist worked feverishly hard to put away Australia's Luke Jackson inside of nine rounds. A body shot knockdown in round eight followed by another onslaught in round nine of the main event Saturday evening at Windsor Park in Frampton's hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Despite losing his featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz in their fever-pitched rematch last January, Frampton still hovers near the top of the 126-pound division. Technically only two rounds away from still being unbeaten, the 31-year old has returned all the way to championship form in 2018—a lesson learned the painfully hard way by Jackson, who was fighting outside of his native Australia for the first time as well as his debut on the title stage (Frampton is recognized as an interim beltholder).
The action was brisk throughout, although generally one way as Frampton proved to be levels above his visiting foe. It wasn't for a lack of trying on the part of Jackson, who enjoyed moderate success in the middle rounds although never to the point of causing the capacity crowd on hand to gasp for air.
Frampton dialed it up as the rounds went on, kicking it into high gear in a painful round eight that saw Jackson taste the canvas for the first time in his young career. The 2012 Olympic boxer for his native Australia—returning to the United Kingdom for the first time since the 2012 London Olympics—did his best to brave a left hand shot from Frampton but an ensuing left hook to the body floored the 33-year old challenger with roughly 30 seconds to go in round eight.
Jackson (16-1, 7KOs) beat the count and made it out of the round, but Frampton was a boxer on a mission. A steady stream of punches in round nine wore down the challenger, with Frampton leaving his foe defenseless following a body shot. Another right and left landed upstairs before Jackson's corner literally threw in the towel, prompting referee Terry O'Connor to halt the contest.
The official time was 1:21 of round nine.
Frampton moves to 26-1 (15KOs), having now won three straight following his heartbreaking loss to Santa Cruz. The setback came just six months after sealing up 2016 Fighter of the Year honors with a thrilling win in their July '16 instant classic, deemed by many outlets as the Fight of the Year. The win—coupled with a less-thrilling but still effective victory over longtime bitter rival Scott Quigg in their Feb. '16 122-pound unification clash—saw Frampton become a two-division champ and the first-ever boxer from Northern Ireland to secure Fighter of the Year honors as recognized by many publications along with the Boxing Writers Association of America.
His 2018 campaign isn't quite on that level—yet. Still, wins over former four-division titlist Nonito Donaire (a points win this past April) and now Jackson send a strong reminder that there is plenty of life left in his featherweight run.
Of course, a meeting with unbeaten Warrington dramatically changes the equation, especially if were to take place later this year as being suggested by promoter Frank Warren. No official announcement has yet been made, or even the type of teaser that came with the evening's co-feature, where Tyson Fury cruised past Francesco Pianeta to set up a fall showdown with unbeaten heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder in an event that will likely be formally announced in the coming days.
For now, fans will just have to take comfort in the knowledge that Carl Frampton very much remains one of the best featherweights in the world regardless of when he next appears in the ring.
The bout aired live on BT Sport in England was streamed live on Showtime's Facebook page and YouTube channel.