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Carl Frampton stops Kiko Martinez to claim European title

Frampton wins European title and becomes first man to stop Martinez with dominant win

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

23:44 GMT, 9 February 2013

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UPDATED:

01:13 GMT, 10 February 2013

Carl Frampton sent out a chilling message to the super bantamweight division by becoming the first man to stop Kiko Martinez and rip the European title from the stunned Spaniard in Belfast.

Frampton, 25, had twice seen a meeting with the champion postponed when Martinez pulled out and had promised to make his adversary pay the ultimate price.

And he did just that, knocking the 26-year-old out with a bludgeoning right hand in the ninth round.
Martinez is no stranger to Ireland having stunned Bernard Dunne inside one round in Dublin six years ago and he had promised to silence the fervent home crowd once again.

Champion: Carl Frampton stopped Kiko Martinez in the ninth round to claim the European title

Champion: Carl Frampton stopped Kiko Martinez in the ninth round to claim the European title

Frampton meanwhile delivered a
career-best performance in September when disposing of two-time world
champion Steve Molitor in six rounds.

But the Canadian was clearly past his
best on that occasion and Martinez, who shares a trainer with world
middleweight champion and namesake Sergio, was expected to pose an
altogether tougher test.

And so it proved as he went in search
of his younger opponent in a cagey first round. Frampton, content to
box on the back foot, landed the first meaningful punch with a solid
left hook to the body.

Martinez was quick out of the blocks
in the second stanza, forcing the home favourite back on to the ropes.
While Frampton stuck to the game plan for the most part, boxing at range
and picking his punches; when he did engage at close quarters, he was
given a sharp reminder of the visitor's knockout power.

Team: Frampton celebrates with his manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan

Team: Frampton celebrates with his manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan

Frampton picked up the pace in the
subsequent round, delivering impressive combinations before withdrawing
to the outskirts of the ring.

By the middle of the fourth session, a
bad cut had opened up under Martinez's left eye and Frampton
immediately set to work with his right hand. But the Spaniard remained
dangerous, landing a solid left jab, perhaps sensing that his days were
numbered, only to be pinned against the ropes as Frampton sensed the
finish.

Although Martinez continued to stalk
his prey in the fifth, Frampton was proving more and more elusive,
slipping and sliding out of range as he moved further ahead on the
scorecards. A quieter sixth round followed but Frampton upped the pace
again as the fight entered its second half.

Martinez, whose cut opened again, was more reluctant to come forward and the Belfast favourite landed several plum shots.

Finally: Frampton had twice seen his meeting with the Spaniard postponed

Finally: Frampton had twice seen his meeting with the Spaniard postponed

Frampton was drawn into a toe-to-toe
brawl at the start of the eighth round but slipped on to the back foot
as the session progressed, allowing him to pick his shots with unerring
accuracy.

Martinez had shown exactly why he had
always heard the final bell when he shipped several huge shots at the
start of the ninth but his resistance proved futile when a huge straight
right left him floundering on the canvas.

The Spaniard rose unsteadily but
after staggering back towards his corner, the referee waved the fight
off. Frampton, who was ahead on all three scorecards by four rounds
(twice) and two rounds on the third, extends his unbeaten record to 16
professional contests.

Frampton, who will likely return to
Belfast on May 11, potentially in a final eliminator for the IBF world
title, said: 'I can't remember much about the [knockout] punch. It was a
decent shot.

'I proved I've got a good chin. I
could feel his power but he didn't hurt me. He didn't make my legs
wobble but you can see from face that he hits hard.

'He's not been wobbled before but I
took him out. The plan was to box from the outside but when we traded, I
felt I got the better of him.

'I want to be a world champion. I
feel the buzz and its getting better. The best man won on the night but
he's a tough man. I was hitting him and he was coming back.'

Alex Pearce says clean sheets are breeding confidence at Reading

Pearce says clean sheets are breeding confidence at Reading

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 December 2012

Reading defender Alex Pearce believes that clean sheets are helping to grow confidence at the club.

The Royals kept back-to-back clean sheets in their previous two matches picking up a point against Swansea on Boxing Day and three against West Ham on Saturday.

It halted a run of seven defeats in a row, has stopped them slipping nine points from safety and lifted them off the foot of the table.

Optimistic mood: Reading's Alex Pearce (centre) says back-to-back clean sheets over the festive period have helped build confidence in the camp

Optimistic mood: Reading's Alex Pearce (centre) says back-to-back clean sheets over the festive period have helped build confidence in the camp

Pearce claims keeping out the league Champions Manchester City for 92 minutes – before Gareth Barry's controversial winner that looked like a foul on Nicky Shorey – helped Reading turn a corner defensively.

The 24-year-old said: 'I certainly think so. We were very good against Man City defensively, very good against Swansea defensively and very good against West Ham defensively and we had that little bit more going forward.

'But we had to get it right at the back first, build from the back and we are doing that and now we are grinding out the wins.'

Decisive strike: Pavel Pogrebnyak scored the winning goal after five minutes to sink West Ham

Decisive strike: Pavel Pogrebnyak scored the winning goal after five minutes to sink West Ham

He added: 'Players and staff want to keep clean sheets and we are happy with the last three games we played. We deserved a clean sheet at Man City, we then got two clean sheets and we are building on that.

'We got a win and we are building on that. We fully believe we can get out of this, everyone has written us off, everyone is saying we are down but inside that dressing room we have a firm belief we will do it.'

Manchester City could be the new invincibles

We are invincible: Mancini's men can't match Arsenal's record but have the same mentality

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 23 December 2012

Defeat in a dramatic Manchester derby earlier this month means that Roberto Mancini and his players can no longer match Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, but it would be wrong to assume they do not feel invincible.

It has become a hallmark of Mancini’s Manchester City. There is something about the relentless way they pursue their objective that is typical of neighbours United and that celebrated Arsenal team of 2003-04.

They create the sense that a goal is inevitable, breathing belief into City and dread into their opponents.

Belief: Gareth Barry's (in blue, second left) late goal against Reading is the latest evidence of Manchester City's refusal to give up

Belief: Gareth Barry's (in blue, second left) late goal against Reading on Saturday is the latest evidence of Manchester City's refusal to give up

People will always remember the late efforts from Edin Dzeko and, of course, Sergio Aguero that clinched the Premier League title for City on goal difference in May, but the sort of mentality Mancini demands of his players has been a work in progress for some time.

Think back to last season. The late winners against Tottenham and Chelsea; the later equaliser against Sunderland. Without those points, the last-day heroics would never have been possible.

The trend has continued this season. Late goals in the first two games enabled City to pick up four points.

Dzeko’s last-gasp winners against Fulham, West Bromwich and Spurs could prove invaluable.

Super-sub: Late goals by Edin Dzeko (right and below) against Fulham, West Brom and Spurs have proved invaluable

Super-sub: Late goals by Edin Dzeko (right and below) against Fulham, West Brom and Spurs have proved invaluable

City are displaying that trademark of champions: a knack of winning without playing particularly well.

On Saturday, it was Gareth Barry’s turn to pop up in the 92nd minute and snatch a 1-0 victory over stubborn Reading. ‘You have to believe,’ he said.

‘Turning one point into three can be vital, and we’ve scored so many goals late on last season and again this year. They can be so important at the end of the season.’

Super-sub: Late goals by Edin Dzeko (right and below) against Fulham, West Brom and Spurs have proved invaluable

Kolo Toure recognises the signs.

The City defender was one of Arsenal’s Invincibles who went unbeaten to win the Premier League title, and he senses the same conviction within Mancini’s squad.

‘We just keep believing we will score,’ said Toure.

‘Teams coming here know we can score at any time. We’ve got that in our minds and the teams we play against know that as well.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

'Mancini time': Late goals have become a hallmark of the Mancini era at City

‘It was the same at Arsenal. We knew we could get the goal. We have the same mentality here. We never accept drawing or losing a game.’

Mancini marked his third anniversary in charge on Friday by talking about his success in changing the balance of power in Manchester.

Robin van Persie’s winner in the derby was a painful reminder that United still rule in ‘Fergie time’, but City are building an impressive record in what could become known as ‘Mancini time’.

Considering their strike rate in the last five minutes of games, it was staggering to see fans leaving the Etihad Stadium early.

‘We won the title in the last second,’ said Mancini. ‘We’ve also recovered a lot of games in the last three or four minutes.

'We know we can change every game right at the end.’

It earned grudging admiration from Brian McDermott but the dejected Reading boss criticised referee Mike Dean’s decision to deny his team a second-half penalty for Karim Rekik’s off-the-ball challenge on Jay Tabb and then to allow Barry’s header to stand.

A seventh straight Premier League defeat was cruel on Reading, although Nicky Shorey’s failure to challenge Barry for a magnificent cross from David Silva in the second of four added minutes made it difficult for Dean to award a foul.

McDermott said: ‘Manchester United notoriously score late goals. Manchester City scored a late goal last season which was quite important, apparently.

'That’s what top sides and top players do. But we didn’t deserve to lose.’

Furious: Reading manager Brian McDermott (left) gave grudgingly gave respect to Mancini's team but was angry at Barry's goal standing

Furious: Reading manager Brian McDermott (left) gave grudgingly gave respect to Mancini's team but was angry at Barry's goal standing

Gareth Barry admits Manchester City panic before Reading victory

We panicked! Barry reveals City relief after his late winner over Reading

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UPDATED:

14:26 GMT, 23 December 2012

Match-winner Gareth Barry admitted panic had almost started to set in before his late heroics salvaged victory for Manchester City over struggling Reading.

The champions had been in danger of dropping vital points to the Barclays Premier League's bottom side before Barry headed home in injury time to snatch a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

City had gone into the game trailing rivals Manchester United by six points at the top of the table and, after failing to make the most of a clear superiority, had looked like handing their neighbours another boost.

Last action hero: Gareth Barry celebrates his late winner for Manchester City with team-mate David Slva

Last action hero: Gareth Barry celebrates his late winner for Manchester City with team-mate David Slva

But the hosts fought to the end and, despite claims by Reading that he benefited from climbing on the back of Nicky Shorey, Barry rose to meet a David Silva cross to plant home a firm header.

Midfielder Barry said: 'I am relieved and delighted at the same time, to get a goal that late.

'You are starting, probably, to panic, thinking we are going to drop some big points at home again.

'It is difficult, especially when you don't get the breakthrough early.

'The longer the game goes on the more you could see the Reading players growing in confidence.

'They started to believe they could keep us out for the 90 minutes. Even towards the end they were believing they could maybe get the winning goal.'

Royals boss Brian McDermott claimed the decision by referee Mike Dean to award the goal, as well as earlier denying his side a penalty, had ruined his Christmas.

Heads you win: Barry nods home City's winner past Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici

Heads you win: Barry nods home City's winner past Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici

Barry felt he had merely been playing for the ball.

He said: 'At the time I felt I just got up and Nicky Shorey was just standing there.

'I probably went over the top of him. I'm delighted the referee hasn't seen it as a foul.'

City dominated in all departments and had 17 attempts on goal to their opponents' six, although they did not regularly test goalkeeper Adam Federici.

Reading showed great defensive resolve throughout and Alex Pearce had two good headed opportunities from corners.

Jay Tabb thought he should have had a penalty after colliding with City youngster Karim Rekik during a second-half counter-attack – when Matija Nastasic might also have escaped with a handball – but Reading's spirited efforts were not rewarded.

City's 2012, particularly their dramatic title success, will be remembered for late goals and they ended their home programme for the year in typical fashion.

Barry, 31, added on City TV: 'You have got to [keep going] at this level. We scored so many late goals last season and a few this year.

'Those late goals can be so important at the end of the season and hopefully that will be another one.'

With three more games to come in just over a week, Barry felt the points were vital to keep the pressure on United.

He said: 'It is very important. When there is a little gap it is important you don't slip away too much further.

'If we can keep chipping away we are going to be there at the end of the season.'

Brian McDermott claims Christmas is ruined

Furious McDermott claims Christmas is ruined after Man City's late triumph

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UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 22 December 2012

Reading manager Brian McDermott claimed his Christmas had been ruined after Manchester City scored a late winner against his side he felt should not have stood.

Gareth Barry headed home in injury time as the champions snatched a last-gasp 1-0 win to deny the bottom club what would have been a hard-earned Barclays Premier League point at the Etihad Stadium.

McDermott felt Barry illegally jumped on the back of one of his players as he leapt to reach David Silva's cross but referee Mike Dean saw nothing untoward.

Heartbreak: Gareth Barry struck late to deny Reading a point

Heartbreak: Gareth Barry struck late to deny Reading a point

Dean had been similarly unmoved when Jay Tabb went down in the area after a collision with City youngster Karim Rekik during a second half Reading counter-attack.

When asked about the winning goal, McDermott said: 'Absolute joke. We have had that a few times this season and even the Tabb penalty – it was a penalty.

'We have had three or four of those, we have had a handball goal against us and an offside goal against us – all of which have cost us points.

'To get that wrong – I have just said to him (Dean) he will be gutted he's missed that.

'He hung in the air, but you can hang in the air all day long if you are on someone's back.

'It's an absolute cert foul, it cannot be anything else.

'But listen, the bottom line is we are Reading. We are a small club in this league punching above our weight.

'That will be irrelevant to you guys because Man City have won, but it is not to us.

'We love this club we have got, we have got a real passion. We will fight, we have 20 games to go, but we certainly deserved a draw today at least.'

He later added: 'But just to let you know, that has just ruined my Christmas.'

A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading but McDermott, whose side have accumulated just nine points from 18 games, is determined to battle on.

He said: 'We have to take consolation from that, we have to take the positives because that is what you have to do. We have got to move on.

'I honestly thought we were going to get something. Even in the first half there were a couple of incidents where we might have got something on the break.

Outrage: Brian McDermott says Christmas has been ruined for him

Outrage: Brian McDermott says Christmas has been ruined for him

'I'm really disappointed for our fans today and really disappointed for the players because they didn't deserve that.'

Despite McDermott's frustrations after a resilient defensive display, City were the superior side throughout.

The hosts created numerous chances but lacked a cutting edge and manager Roberto Mancini was again left to bemoan his side's wastefulness.

The Italian said: 'I think we deserved to win but when you are in the last two or three minutes of extra time, it could be difficult.

'These games, if you don't score in the first half when you have a lot of chances to score, I think they can be strong.

'They played well, they defended well, for 90 minutes with all players behind the ball. We didn't find space to score.

Distraught: Reading players wonder what went wrong after conceding

Distraught: Reading players wonder what went wrong after conceding

'When you have one chance, you have to score. In the end, I am happy with the victory but we had a big problem.'

The match was City's last home game of 2012 and they won it in a manner in keeping with the rest of the year, notably last season's title decider.

The win denied Manchester United the opportunity to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the table and Mancini was pleased with the character shown.

He said: 'In this we have improved a lot. We want to recover so when we are losing we try until the end to score, to recover the game.

'Our character is strong. Sometimes you can win, sometimes you can't but I am very happy because we have recovered a lot of games like today.

'But it is more important to score before. If not my heart is not strong.'

Mancini had a different opinion on Barry's goal to McDermott. 'No foul, absolutely not,' he said.

Complaint: McDermott was unimpressed with his side not being awarded a penalty

Complaint: McDermott was unimpressed with his side not being awarded a penalty

Brian McDemott claims Christmas is ruined

Furious McDemott claims Christmas is ruined after Man City's late triumph

|

UPDATED:

18:57 GMT, 22 December 2012

Reading manager Brian McDermott claimed his Christmas had been ruined after Manchester City scored a late winner against his side he felt should not have stood.

Gareth Barry headed home in injury time as the champions snatched a last-gasp 1-0 win to deny the bottom club what would have been a hard-earned Barclays Premier League point at the Etihad Stadium.

McDermott felt Barry illegally jumped on the back of one of his players as he leapt to reach David Silva's cross but referee Mike Dean saw nothing untoward.

Heartbreak: Gareth Barry struck late to deny Reading a point

Heartbreak: Gareth Barry struck late to deny Reading a point

Dean had been similarly unmoved when Jay Tabb went down in the area after a collision with City youngster Karim Rekik during a second half Reading counter-attack.

When asked about the winning goal, McDermott said: 'Absolute joke. We have had that a few times this season and even the Tabb penalty – it was a penalty.

'We have had three or four of those, we have had a handball goal against us and an offside goal against us – all of which have cost us points.

'To get that wrong – I have just said to him (Dean) he will be gutted he's missed that.

'He hung in the air, but you can hang in the air all day long if you are on someone's back.

'It's an absolute cert foul, it cannot be anything else.

'But listen, the bottom line is we are Reading. We are a small club in this league punching above our weight.

'That will be irrelevant to you guys because Man City have won, but it is not to us.

'We love this club we have got, we have got a real passion. We will fight, we have 20 games to go, but we certainly deserved a draw today at least.'

He later added: 'But just to let you know, that has just ruined my Christmas.'

A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading but McDermott, whose side have accumulated just nine points from 18 games, is determined to battle on.

He said: 'We have to take consolation from that, we have to take the positives because that is what you have to do. We have got to move on.

'I honestly thought we were going to get something. Even in the first half there were a couple of incidents where we might have got something on the break.

Outrage: Brian McDermott says Christmas has been ruined for him

Outrage: Brian McDermott says Christmas has been ruined for him

'I'm really disappointed for our fans today and really disappointed for the players because they didn't deserve that.'

Despite McDermott's frustrations after a resilient defensive display, City were the superior side throughout.

The hosts created numerous chances but lacked a cutting edge and manager Roberto Mancini was again left to bemoan his side's wastefulness.

The Italian said: 'I think we deserved to win but when you are in the last two or three minutes of extra time, it could be difficult.

'These games, if you don't score in the first half when you have a lot of chances to score, I think they can be strong.

'They played well, they defended well, for 90 minutes with all players behind the ball. We didn't find space to score.

Distraught: Reading players wonder what went wrong after conceding

Distraught: Reading players wonder what went wrong after conceding

'When you have one chance, you have to score. In the end, I am happy with the victory but we had a big problem.'

The match was City's last home game of 2012 and they won it in a manner in keeping with the rest of the year, notably last season's title decider.

The win denied Manchester United the opportunity to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the table and Mancini was pleased with the character shown.

He said: 'In this we have improved a lot. We want to recover so when we are losing we try until the end to score, to recover the game.

'Our character is strong. Sometimes you can win, sometimes you can't but I am very happy because we have recovered a lot of games like today.

Complaint: McDermott was unimpressed with his side not being awarded a penalty

Complaint: McDermott was unimpressed with his side not being awarded a penalty

'But it is more important to score before. If not my heart is not strong.'

Mancini had a different opinion on Barry's goal to McDermott. 'No foul, absolutely not,' he said.

Striker Mario Balotelli did not play having missed some training sessions this week through illness.

Mancini was not concerned about reports the 22-year-old had been spotted elsewhere in Manchester today.

He said: 'Mario is ill. I don't know where is now. For one week he was ill.

'He came to the training ground yesterday because he wanted to train but he couldn't.

'I can't close him in his house, it is impossible.'

Barry Hearn strips top snooker stars of playing privileges

Hearn shakes up snooker with Trump and other top stars stripped of playing privileges

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UPDATED:

22:41 GMT, 18 December 2012

Snooker supremo Barry Hearn has thrown down the gauntlet to the top players.

The likes of Judd Trump and Mark Selby will have privileges removed and the top 16 will not be guaranteed a place at eight of 11 ranking events.

From June, all 128 tour pros will, for most events, be hurled in at round one in a draw with 64 seeds.

Wielding the axe: Snooker chief Barry Hearn is cutting player privileges

Wielding the axe: Snooker chief Barry Hearn is cutting player privileges

Superstars returns to BBC for Christmas with Olympic stars Mo Farah, Anthony Joshua, Jonny Brownlee

Superstars is back! British Olympians turn have-a-go heroes in return of classic show

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UPDATED:

23:48 GMT, 18 December 2012

Watching brief

Saturday, December 29 on BBC1, 6.45-8.15pm.

The one-off episode is presented by Gabby Logan with Denise Lewis and Iwan Thomas as pundits.

Next weekend, classic sports show Superstars returns for a festive special, featuring 16 of this year’s British Olympians.

Mo Farah, Anthony Joshua, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee and Lizzie Armitstead are among the heroes of London 2012 taking part.

So which member of Team GB will prove the ultimate all-rounder Take a look at these pictures taken while filming the show and decide who you think will be crowned London 2012's Superstar.

The eyes have it: Mo Farah grits his teeth in the tough men's bike race on Superstars

The eyes have it: Mo Farah grits his teeth in the tough men's bike race on Superstars

One more push: 200m breaststroke silver medallist Michael Jamieson shows the strain

One more push: 200m breaststroke silver medallist Michael Jamieson shows the strain

Gym tests: Great Britain's first medallist of the London 2012 Olympics, Lizzie Armitstead

Gym tests: Great Britain's first medallist of the London 2012 Olympics, Lizzie Armitstead

Mo's throw: 5,000m and 10,000m gold medallist Farah prepares to launch the javelin

Mo's throw: 5,000m and 10,000m gold medallist Farah prepares to launch the javelin

Jade's in sparkling form: Jones turns her hand to the javelin after winning gold in taekwondo at the Games

Jade's in sparkling form: Jones turns her hand to the javelin after winning gold in taekwondo at the Games

Poor bike! Super-heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua uses his huge frame during the cycle race

Poor bike! Super-heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua uses his huge frame during the cycle race

Making a splash: Jonny Brownlee, Olympic triathlon bronze medallist, races in the kayak

Making a splash: Jonny Brownlee, Olympic triathlon bronze medallist, races in the kayak

Taking aim: Lizzie Armitstead fires at the bull during the archery competition

Taking aim: Lizzie Armitstead fires at the bull during the archery competition

And they're off: (left-right) Peter Wilson, Robbie Grabarz, Anthony Joshua, Jonny Brownlee, Mo Farah, Alistair Brownlee, Michael Jamieson, Andrew Triggs-Hodge

And they're off: (left-right) Peter Wilson, Robbie Grabarz, Anthony Joshua, Jonny Brownlee, Mo Farah, Alistair Brownlee, Michael Jamieson, Andrew Triggs-Hodge

Can you remember these Superstars

Daley Thompson

David Wilkie

Shows of strength: Olympic decathlete Daley Thompson (left) and swimmer David Wilkie (right)

Pool of talent: (left-right) Bobby Moore, Tony Jacklin, David Hemery, Roger Taylor, Barry John and Joe Bugner

Pool of talent: (left-right) Bobby Moore, Tony Jacklin, David Hemery, Roger Taylor, Barry John and Joe Bugner

The original Superstar: Geoff Capes shows how the shot putt should be done

The original Superstar: Geoff Capes shows how the shot putt should be done

And who could forget the most famous Superstars moment of all (Yes, it's Kevin Keegan's bike crash…)

Ronnie OSullivan set for Crucible comeback

Rocket's return: O'Sullivan set for re-entry at the worlds after break

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UPDATED:

23:44 GMT, 4 December 2012

Ronnie O’Sullivan is considering an early return to defend his world snooker title at The Crucible.

‘The Rocket’, who is 37 on Wednesday, withdrew from the rest of the current campaign last month, citing personal issues.

However, since then, O’Sullivan has held more talks with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and the governing body will give him until February to sign up for April’s blue-riband event.

Comeback Ronnie O'Sullivan could return for the world Championships

Comeback Ronnie O'Sullivan could return for the world Championships

Hearn said: ‘I have said to Ronnie that the only tournament for us if he wanted to change his mind — and that is not unknown — is the world championship.

‘One thing that will not have escaped Ronnie’s attention, because he loves his sport, is how uncompetitive Ricky Hatton was on his return.

‘He is not going to play for first-round loser’s money, or come back to the stage he has graced and given so much pleasure to get embarrassed.’

Andrew Flintoff showed heart if not technique – Mike Dickson

Mike Dickson: What Flintoff lacked in elegance he made up for with sheer heart

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UPDATED:

01:48 GMT, 1 December 2012

Andrew Flintoff never took a step back on the cricket field and, when it came down to a huge test of nerve and courage last night, he remained resolutely on the front foot to record the first win of his reality boxing career.

We knew he could fearlessly smite short balls from Brett Lee off the tip of his nose, that he could bully the world’s finest batsmen with barrages of short-pitched bowling, and now we know he can hold his own inside the ropes before a baying, breathless crowd.

What he lacked in elegance he made up for with sheer heart to surge forward continually and defeat an opponent two stones heavier, albeit one who lived down to expectations, on a 39-38 points decision to the delirious acclaim of the MEN Arena in Manchester.

Pure heart: Andrew Flintoff was unrefined but brave and persistent

Pure heart: Andrew Flintoff was unrefined but brave and persistent

Caught off balance by the otherwise hapless Richard Dawson in the second round, Flintoff was floored by a clipped left hook in a rare show of aggression from the American, who had all the mobility of a giant water butt.

But recovering from that was a typical show of character from the former England all-rounder, who must now decide if he wants to go through all this again. ‘I don’t know, but the feeling of being back in front of a crowd and winning was incredible,’ he said. ‘It’s been amazing, humbling in fact.

‘It wasn’t one for the purist but it was everything I had hoped for and more. It was like an out-of-body experience. It was similar to how I played cricket: a bit ragged but I wanted to leave everything in the ring.’

His relieved and delighted mentor Barry McGuigan added: ‘He forgot everything I taught him in the excitement of it all but he got the job done.’

A few of the Celebocracy in which Flintoff moves these days were among the 6,000 crowd, including comedians John Bishop and Jack Whitehall and a smattering of former Test colleagues such as Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison.

Made it through: Flintoff survived his first foray into the ring to win on points

Made it through: Flintoff survived his first foray into the ring to win on points

When Ricky Hatton had fought a week earlier, the 19,000 tickets had gone within a week, the appetite for an authentic comeback from a credible star of the sport obviously greater than the desire to see a much-loved cricketing hero take this strange and rather brutal voyage of self-discovery.

You could not fault Flintoff’s courage but it was hard for any outcome to glorify the image of the noble art. A quick knockout or stoppage would have been the farce that many in the game had feared and predicted. Lasting the course as he did, even in this bare minimum format of eight minutes, did not suggest that the skill levels required to turn professional are stratospheric.

Something you could not criticise Flintoff for was his dedication to this cause, the loss of more than three stone sculpting his body into a sharper form than the one which, even at the height of his playing days, always had something of a built-for-comfort look about it.

He clearly answered the demands of McGuigan with four months of the kind of discipline that might have elongated the main part of his sporting career had he employed it then.

Get back up: Flintoff stumbled but recovered to emerge victorious

Get back up: Flintoff stumbled but recovered to emerge victorious

The last time he shared a sporting arena with a Richard Dawson it was the spindly Yorkshire off-spinner, not the former gang member from small town Oklahoma who had forged a more traditional, redemptive path into the sport.

Dawson, 23, has the sort of moobs that Simon Cowell might blush at, but unlike the Lancastrian he had the benefit of several amateur fights before two at professional level, albeit against equally unknown opponents.

Flintoff entered the ring wearing a Lancashire Twenty20 shirt, but he will never have heard a cacophony like this.

Compared to the earlier fighters on the bill Dawson was less nimble than a mobile home and after a cagey beginning Flintoff had him rocking back on the ropes.

Crowd favourite: 'Freddie' connects with Dawson's head

Crowd favourite: 'Freddie' connects with Dawson's head

That was until the left hook that had the home favourite sprawling across the canvas, forced to take a count of eight. Our hero survived through to the end of it and into a third round which saw much grappling, pushing and shoving, and the odd jab from both men.

With chants of ‘Freddie! Freddie!’ ringing around the arena and Dawson being reminded about his copious flab, Flintoff surged forward in the fourth round and landed his best combinations of the bout.

The late flurries, while somewhat ungainly, were enough to guarantee him the points decision after eight minutes of a different sort of fame.