Carl Frampton already was a world champion at the start of this year, but his accomplishments in 2016 placed him at the top of the entire boxing universe.
The 29-year-old native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, reached a level of success this year that most boxers could only dream about, traveling to two countries to win world titles in two weight divisions against a pair of undefeated champions-with the second victory coming in a Fight of the Year contender.
Reaching such heights made Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) an overwhelming unanimous decision by the staff of Premier Boxing Champions as PBC’s Fighter of the Year.
“I’m in this game to win fights and to win titles,” Frampton said, “but when you’re picking up awards like Fighter of the Year when there are so many good fighters around, obviously it’s a huge achievement, and I’m very, very grateful.”
Other fighters considered for the award were Jermall Charlo, Robert Easter Jr. and Keith Thurman. All three world champions had tremendous years of their own, but none achieved more in the squared circle in 2016 than Frampton.
“The Jackal” opened the year on February 27 by taking on fellow 122-pound world champion Scott Quigg in a title unification bout on the Englishman’s home turf at Manchester Arena.
Although the bout took several rounds to heat up, the 5-foot-5 Frampton initiated most of the action as he worked effectively behind his jab and landed the cleaner punches throughout the fight.
Even though the highly anticipated contest took place just 15 miles from Quigg’s hometown of Bury, Lancashire, much of the sellout crowd of 21,000 voiced their support for Frampton, who broke Quigg’s jaw on his way to gaining a split decision just six days after his 29th birthday.
“I’m absolutely delighted to have won. Over the moon,” Frampton said after two of the judges gave him a 116-112 edge and the third scored it 115-113 for Quigg. “The fight went very much to plan, and I thought I had won it by quite a distance. I’m really surprised one judge gave it to him.”
Rather than defend his 122-pound titles, Frampton elected to relinquish them and move up in weight. Not only that, he immediately went after one of the best 126-pound fighters in the world, traveling to Brooklyn, New York, on July 30, when he challenged unbeaten 126-pound world champion Leo Santa Cruz for his title at Barclays Center.
The bout was electrifying almost from the opening bell as both fighters attempted to press the action. In the second round, Frampton sent Santa Cruz staggering backward into the ropes with a short left hook to the temple to gain the early edge.
Although he never did knock down the champion, Frampton continually beat Santa Cruz to the punch, landing perfectly placed counter shots as he fired from all angles to thwart the Mexican-American’s high-volume attack.
Frampton, who was competing for just the second time in the United States, won the Fight of the Year candidate by majority decision, earning winning scores of 117-111 and 116-112, while the third judge surprisingly had it even at 114-114.
The victory made Frampton just the second Irishman after Steve Collins to win world titles in two weight divisions, and the first from Northern Ireland.
Frampton now has a chance to get an early jump on 2017 Fighter of the Year honors with a rematch against Santa Cruz set for January 28 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“I never ever thought I would win a world title in two different weight divisions when I turned professional,” Frampton said.
“The goal was to become world champion-and to win a second world title, it’s a bonus really. … 2016 couldn’t have went any better if I’m being honest.”