Carl Frampton questions 'soft' canvas after Texas fright
World champion Carl Frampton will head home to Belfast today with "mixed emotions" after a gritty successful defence of his IBF World super-bantamweight crown on his American debut.
Unlike some fighters, Frampton is prepared to take criticism on the chin when it is justified and to some degree, he is his own toughest critic.
So, although the Belfast man was a clear unanimous points winner despite hitting the canvas twice in the opening round against Mexican Alejandro Gonazlez, he accepts it was not quite the display he had expected.
"I got the win, which was the most important thing, but it wasn't the explosive performance I wanted. I set high standards for myself. I'm disappointed, but the TV guys around here seem to be very happy because it was exciting," said Frampton, who connected with 245 punches compared to the 146 landed by the 22-year-old Mexican.
"I'm flying home with mixed emotions. I'll maybe cheer up in a day or two, but getting dropped was the most shocking moment of my career."
While Frampton admitted to losing too much weight in the days leading up to his American debut, the 28-year-old felt that his failure to let his punches flow with their natural potency was more to do with the canvas.
"I need to use my feet to get my power and I just couldn't use them. The ring wasn't in our favour. It was soft - there's an inch and a half of foam under it.
"It was just ridiculous. I couldn't get on my toes, it was so soft. That maybe played a part in the knock-downs. I couldn't move my legs.
"I had to lose a lot of weight in the two days before the weigh-in - a lot more than I expected. It's never that good to have to do that.
"We'll just have to re-evaluate now and seriously consider moving up to featherweight.
"I don't want to tell you exactly what I had to take off over the last few days, but it was a lot of weight."
Manager, Barry McGuigan, said: "It was disappointing because Carl was knocked down. He's never been knocked down before. He's got a great chin and yet he was hurt in the first round.
"He was in a haze for probably two or three rounds and had to change his tactics. He wasn't up on his toes. He didn't have that rhythm."
The former world champion then addressed the issue of the weight which Frampton had to lose to make the 122lb limit.
"Carl hasn't had that kind of trouble before. He's big for that weight. Maybe he's grown out of the weight.
"He was too heavy too late. He shouldn't have been as heavy as he was the day before the weigh-in. We had to dry him out and that's not good. It saps your energy - especially out here in the heat.
"At the end of the day, it's not a good day at the office, but he got up off his backside and he showed his courage and ultimately his skill.
"He was countered a lot, he just seemed slower, but he's still unbeaten and we move on. There are a lot of big fights out there for Carl."
McGuigan wouldn't be drawn on whether or not the next fight would be against Scott Quigg on the back of his second round knockout win over Kiko Martinez in Manchester.
"It certainly spices things up. It would be a great fight."
Frampton certainly won't forget the first round in hurry. Picking himself off the canvas for the second time, he glanced across at his corner with the look of who man who sensed his American dream could be crumbling.
Here was a dark place he had never been before and it is in such moments of adversity that we usually find out the true depth of a boxer's character.
Everyone has marvelled in the past at the little man's freakishly strong punching, his cat-like reflexes and balletic footwork. Here in sultry Texas, they were as arid and barren as the Chihuahuan Desert, situated just 10 minutes from the Don Haskins Centre in the University of El Paso.
Down for the first time in his career at the start of his American debut, being screened live on CBS across the USA, the next two rounds were going to be all about Frampton's Tigers Bay cojones and the other outstanding attribute he possesses - a special boxing brain.
Gonzalez, viewed by many as a lamb to the slaughter, suddenly found himself on the cusp of glory despite damaging his right hand with the punch that sent the champion to the canvas for a second time.
The buzz around the basketball stadium, which had around 3,000 in for this afternoon show, was that this raw 22-year-old could emulate his famous father and become world champion.
Back in Frampton's corner, coach Shane McGuigan calmly instructed his friend on a way out of this vortex of Mexican doom.
It was not going to be easy as Frampton continued to take more clean blows from the rangy challenger than he had in his previous half a dozen fights. But, like all great champions, he found a way, a route to success which lesser men could never find.
His boxing antenna finally had a full signal at the start of the fourth, having been made to wince from a low blow in the third, which led to the Mexican being deducted a point by referee Mark Calo-Oy of Texas.
Frampton may have told his corner that he "just didn't feel right", but there was a fight to be won and for the next nine rounds, he demonstrated the guile and craft needed at the highest level of sport.
The three judges had it 115-109, 116-108, 116-08 for the champion. On my card, Gonzalez won the first two rounds and shared the eighth.