RISING super-bantamweight prospect Carl Frampton stopped power puncher Kiko Martinez in the ninth round with a chopping right hand to become European super-bantamweight champion in Belfast last night.
In the toughest test of his career to date, Frampton had to weather an advancing storm from the Spaniard, who knocked out Bernard Dunne in 86 seconds in 2007, in the early rounds, but showed in a close fight that he has the wherewithal to climb the ladder to elite level.
In a close fight, Frampton boxed brilliantly in the fourth round. and then, against a champion who never took a backward step, stopped the Spaniard after a brilliant ninth round with 14 seconds remaining.
The protégé of Barry McGuigan sailed through the bout with flying colours, moving intelligently and showed that after sixteen fights unbeaten, he is on his way to the elite class, in spite of the occasional lapse when he was caught by hooks from the tough, durable champion.
"(It was a) very tough night. He was harder to hit than I thought. He's tough as nails," Frampton said of Martinez, who made throat-slitting gestures towards his rival at yesterday's weigh-in.
"All that stuff at the weigh-in - that's just macho-ism. He's a nice guy and I'll shake his hand.
"I told him I'd outbox him at the start and I'd outfight him at the end - and that's exactly what I've done.
"He's a big, big puncher. People had doubts about my chin. It just shows I've got a solid chin. He's one of the hardest fighters in the super-bantamweight division and I could take him all day."
McGuigan added : "Carl showed tonight that he could punch, he could box, he could take a punch and he could go into the trenches. He is a marvellous talent and going right to the top."