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Carl Frampton is the new unified IBF and WBA world super-bantamweight champion after edging to a split decision victory over long-time rival Scott Quigg in Manchester. The 29-year-old produced a fine defensive display and despite a late revival from Quigg was able to grind out the win following a fight which failed to live up to the explosive build-up.
Frampton took control of the early stages with his jab keeping Quigg at bay. The pre-fight underdog came back into the contest after the mid-way point and tagged Frampton several times to threaten to cause an upset.
But Quigg left himself with too much to do and it would be Frampton who would be left celebrating after being given the benefit of the doubt by the judges to the tune of four rounds. The trio scored the fight at 116-112, 116-112 and 113-114 in the favour of the now double world champion. Celebrations were largely muted as both fighters showed respect for one another but the result leaves Frampton targetting high profile opposition overseas.
The most eagerly anticipated domestic fight in a generation brought together two explosive unbeaten bantamweights in just the third ever all-British world title unification bout. Frampton and Quigg had traded verbal blows throughout the build up to the contest but there would be no hiding behind the put downs and insults come the first bell.
The jousting away from the ring had not stopped with the two fighters, with trainers Shane McGuigan - backed by with father Barry McGuigan - and Joe Gallagher feuding ahead of the clash. Even Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn had become embroiled in the war of words, with Quigg's backer having previously worked with Frampton.
The deluge of subtext, which had included an argument over the use of the home dressing room at the Manchester Arena just days before the bout had worked to swell the belief the clash would be anything but the anticlimax previous high-profile fight had descended into. However, the early rounds saw both fighters feel each other out, a period which Frampton edged as he used his jab to good effect as his defence kept Quigg frustrated.
The home favourite was restricted to rare shots at Frampton, unable to unleash a virtuoso flurry of shots, but did connect with left hands in rounds four and five, though it was the Northern Irishman who remained in control. As the fight reached the half-way point, a restless capacity crowd jeered as the pair continued to spar.
There was a brief response in rounds seven and eight as they went on the offensive as Frampton and Quigg both landed fierce right hands, with the latter made belated inroads. Quigg began to have greater success as the fight reached the closing stages with Frampton showing signs of fatigue.
In round 11, Quigg landed some heavy blows as a bout which Frampton had controlled for long periods started to slip from his grip. There remained little to choose between them up until the final exchanges and when the bell rang at the end of round 12 both fighters embraced in acceptance of a keenly fought contest.
But the judges scorecards told a different story, with the officials having Frampton by a split decision with a four round difference. Quigg accepted the result with admirable humility as his home town toasted the new unified champion.