Doubts over Frampton's future after brutal defeat
There are few sportsmen who in defeat can find their legacy enhanced, but then again - as his fans have often reminded us - there is only one Carl Frampton.
On Saturday night in the Manchester Arena, the 5ft 5in man of steel found himself in more adversity than ever before and still managed to strain every sinew in search of victory, gelling with IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington in a blood-curdling spectacle that left both men with roadmaps of pain blotted across their features.
The 20,000 who invested in a ticket must have felt that Christmas had come early, watching on for 45 minutes in a state of shock and awe before rising to their feet for a standing ovation that seemed too little a reward such was the ferocity, bravery and skill that had been on display.
Make no mistake, both men left a little bit of themselves in that arena and such was the punishment suffered by the 31-year-old Belfast man that he was urinating blood, while being checked over at hospital in the early hours of yesterday morning.
It seemed churlish that immediately questions over Frampton's future were immediately raised but such is the brutal, cold nature of boxing even the finest offering from the Noble Art must be vandalised.
Warrington had scorched his mark on proceedings with acidic attacks in the opening two rounds that set the pattern for him to triumph, a worthy winner on all three judges' cards - 116-113, 116-12, 116-112.
It was in the second round that we saw Frampton's eye widen as never before, clearly stunned by the champion's onslaught, just as he had been to a lesser extent in the latter stages of the first round which led to him abandoning his natural skills and engaging in toe-to-toe combat.
As Warrington revelled in such territory, it was easy to recall the words of Frampton's mentor and amateur coach Billy McKee who said that "the hardest thing with Carl was to get him not to fight because he was always a better boxer".
The Jackal's legs stiffened to the point where it seemed he might find himself slipping to the canvas.
Good, even great, fighters would have found momentary solace on the canvas but Frampton stood firm even when it seemed he was wading through treacle.
"He buzzed me in the second round. I just felt that I had to stand and fight and it was the same in some of the other rounds… there's no quit in me," said Frampton, who found his own mark in the fourth round when finally using his footwork and smart sling shots before slipping out of range.
By comparison to the first nine minutes , this was an oasis of calm but Frampton had absorbed so much punishment that he was repeatedly drawn into the trenches in the latter stages of the majority of the remaining rounds - and all too often Warrington had the better of those close-quarter exchanges.
Nevertheless, they were dragging every ounce of fight from each other, testing their will and desire and a respectful embrace at the start of the final round gave way to another captivating three minutes of combat.
It was a tearful Frampton who sat in his dressing-room, the loss hitting harder than any of the copious amount of blows that battered his kidneys. A golden chance to become a world champion again had slipped away.
It may well be that the tectonic plates of his ring career are shifting him towards retirement as even the greatest of warriors find that one day the fire is finally doused.
"I have a young family and I have been in this game a long time so I'll sit down and see what I do next," said Frampton.
"I lost fair and square, there's no excuses from me. I was in great shape and the better man won. I was fit and strong but Josh was fitter and stronger and that's the bottom line."
Earlier on the card,Michael Conlan won the first title of his professional career when beating Jason Cunningham in a WBO Inter-Continental featherweight contest. Ireland's London 2012 bronze-medal winner was awarded the fight on a unanimous decision - 97-92, 97-92, 98-92.