The two men who had battered each other for 12 rounds—and had the carved-up, swollen faces to prove it—stood across from each other Saturday night in a locker room at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
“Thank you for the fight,“ Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. said. “From now on, you’ve got a friend in me.”
As gracious in defeat as he was implacable in the ring, Gonzalez nearly spoiled the United States debut and unbeaten record of Carl Frampton.
Frampton went to the canvas twice in the first round, the victim of quality shots from the 22-year-old challenger. And twice he got back up, climbed back in the fight and imposed his will on the impressive son of a former champion.
Nonetheless, the mood in the locker room was, as Frampton manager Barry McGuigan put it, glum.
“I’m disappointed,” Frampton said. “I got knocked down twice in the first round. I went in there expecting to get rid of Alejandro, and it didn’t happen. He surprised me a lot. Two knockdowns in the first round, it’s not great, but I showed a lot of balls and courage to come back. I’m a proud man. I feel like I want to apologize, but a win’s a win. Onward and upward.”
If Frampton was surprised by his Mexican opponent's power and resilience, no one was more surprised by Frampton’s recovery than Gonzalez.
“That’s what champions are. That’s why he’s a champion,” Gonzalez said. “But I thought I had him. I thought he was done. But he’s a great champion. He knows how to control it. That’s why he’s a superstar.”
The action was jet-fuel-in-a-fireworks-factory explosive through the first three rounds with both fighters trading huge shots, including Frampton working a left to the body with an audible snap.
Frampton started to take control in the fourth despite visible swelling under his left eye. He found purchase with a jab that stabbed through Gonzalez’s high guard, and a right that snaked around it entirely. Gonzalez never seemed to find an answer for those two shots, electing to counterpunch instead.
“When I got my jab working, it was working very well,” Frampton said. “Although I’m short, shorter than most at [122 pounds], I’ve quite a good jab. The main problem was my feet. I couldn’t get my feet going. The ring canvas was very soft. It suited a fighter who plods forward. I like to get up on my toes.
"I don’t want to make excuses. I wanted to win; I showed excitement. I didn’t get the knockout; but two out of three ain’t bad.”
After opening with his 10-7 round in the first, Gonzalez lost points for low blows in the third and 11th rounds. He won just four rounds combined after the first on the cards of the judges, who scored it 115-109 and 116-108 twice.
“A lot of people thought I was going to be knocked out, an easy fight,” Gonzalez said. “But today I showed everybody I’m a real boxer, a true Mexican.”
No arguments from Frampton.
For the full rundown on Frampton vs Gonzalez, including photos and video, make sure to visit our fight page.