Friendly fire between firm friends Carl Frampton and Paddy Barnes as they prepare to fight on the same bill at the SSE Arena
ON Saturday night Carl Frampton and Paddy Barnes appear on the same bill together for the first time as professional fighters. The Belfast buddies didn't like each other at first but they've become good friends over the years. Andy Watters spoke to the two-time Olympic medallist and the two-time world champion ahead of this weekend's Belfast rumble...
You two go back a long way, when did you first meet?
CF: I can’t remember when we first met, but we fought each other a load of times when we were younger. We didn’t really like each other at the start.
Paddy punched me out of the ring at the Balmoral Hotel one night and his ma went nuts. She was cheering like mad.
PB: That was our fourth fight. It was 2-1 to him when that fight happened but I didn’t punch him out of the ring, I threw him.
CF: Yeah, he did and I got back up and knocked his ballix in for it.
PB: No chance.
What age were you when you had your first fight?
CF: 12 or 13. I don’t think we’d met each other before it. Paddy was with his uncle Jimmy training in Ardglass.
After that we’d seen each other about and Paddy started training in Holy Family. We started training and sparring with each other and got to be friends.
But you didn’t hit it off straight away?
CF: We were opponents, we were fighting each other.
PB: Then Carl moved up a weight and we were at the same club training and became friends from then.
CF: Once we took the competition out of it we started to be mates.
So you fought four times and Carl won three. Do you dispute any of those decisions Paddy?
PB: Not all of them - I’ll give him two.
CF: Woah! I was being kind saying they were all close. I won three fights fair and square and that’s it.
PB: I beat him in the Northern Ireland Boys’ Club fight.
In your early days you both took part in a TV documentary for Canal+. How did you get involved in that?
PB: We were 16, I was in sixth year.
CF: Yes, we got 500 quid for that.
CF: We got 500 quid.
PB: I only got 300!
CF: Did ye?
CF: Here, somebody stroked you there.
PB: Maybe somebody else was supposed to give it to me?
CF: It was a couple of days they were following us about. I remember being scundered, they were following me about the Bay and people were shouting ‘d**khead’ and all. They were up at my school and one of the lads got hit on the head with a cream bun. What do you do?
AW: Paddy you’ve boxed him enough times to know - how highly did you rate Carl as a fighter early on?
PB: He could always punch very, very hard. I remember he hit me when we were kids and I could see a white flash. I always knew he’d be a top professional.
Same to you Carl. How highly did you rate Paddy?
CF: Paddy doesn’t get credit for his punching power. I remember seeing him dropping the French number one who was an Olympian at a tournament. But Paddy’s speed was the thing. He threw a lot of shots.
I would load up and throw two or three but Paddy would throw six or seven. His workrate was a lot higher than mine.
You were both part of the Irish high performance team in Dublin. How did that go?
CF: We used to travel down to Dublin and back together.
PB: We used to go down to train for a week and then come home on Thursday.
CF: We used to get a carry-out for the train. I remember being blocked getting off the train and thinking we were mad going to KFC at York Gate and walking through the drive-through thinking we were mental. There was people behind us in cars.
You roomed together on overseas trips. Is it true that Carl used to do your head in with his singing Paddy?
CF: I like singing. I do sing a lot.
Where does that come from?
CF: I don’t know. My da was always singing around the house. My ma used to be a backing singer for Celine Dion.
CF: Nah… I’m only joking. But I would love to be a brilliant singer – I don’t think I would stop if I could sing. I’m alright, but if I could really sing I would love it.
Can he sing Paddy?
PB: He can sing, in fairness. I always torture him, but he can.
CF: Thanks Paddy.
Any of those trips with the Ireland team stand out?
CF: I remember we went to Wales and Paddy tried to hijack a tractor on a building site.
PB: I couldn’t get it started. Yeah, that was a good one.
Carl you turned pro first. Did you try and talk him out of it Paddy?
PB: I did a bit because he was the in-form boxer on the team and the world championships were coming up in 2009 and I thought that he’d definitely get a medal.
CF: The year before I turned pro I was flying, that was the best year of my amateur career. I beat David Oliver Joyce and I won a tournament in Turkey.
But I wasn’t getting any funding and I was skint. I got offered a few quid – when you have no money and you get offered some dough you just take it.
There was talk of me and David Oliver having a box-off for the Olympic qualifiers and it never came off. I thought they (the IABA) should have given me a crack at a qualifier and they never did and I was disappointed which was another reason why I turned over.
If they had given me a chance at a qualifier, who knows? I’m not saying I would have qualified for the Olympics, but I might have and I think I deserved one.
Do you regret that you never went to a major tournament?
CF: I never went to an Olympics or the Commonwealth Games either and I would have loved to have gone to a major tournament and done the whole athletes village thing and all that. It’s something I regret a bit, but I’ve done alright as a pro haven’t I?
When Carl turned over were you tempted to do the same thing Paddy?
PB: No I was happy because I was on the top grant from the Sports Council so there was no point in me leaving the amateurs because I was on good money already. It never crossed my mind.
CF: It would have taken serious money to get some of the boys to turn pro then. You were on a fortune at a time Paddy.
PB: I was on 40 grand a year tax free and a bonus if you won a medal.
A lot of pros never get a sniff at that sort of money?
CF: I’d say most of them don’t.
Where were you when Paddy won his medal at the 2008 Olympics in China, Carl?
CF: I was supporting Paddy like mad from home and I always have. I went over to a wee bar to watch one of his fights. I said: ‘Will someone stick Paddy’s fight on?’ It was on RTE and they said: ‘We’re not putting that s***e on.’ I went mad, I said: ‘What’s wrong with yous?’ and I had an argument with the barman and then I ran back over home and ended up catching it.
I was always supporting him. I remember the fight with Zou Shiming (semi-final), there’s no way he lost that 15-0, maybe 15-1.
Did you agree with Paddy’s comments after he lost that fight when he criticised the Chinese nation?
CF: Paddy’s a hothead.
PB: You can’t disagree, because everything I said was correct. Okay, I shouldn’t have said it but China has a bad, bad history on human rights.
CF: I was laughing my balls off. I thought it was hilarious – Paddy says what he wants.
Paddy you have been a regular at ringside watching Carl go through ranks as a pro?
PB: I’ve been to every one of his fights that I could go to. I’ve been to the Ulster Hall, to Vegas, I walked out at the Odyssey carrying his belt. I was very proud to do it and cheer him on.
What has been his best performance so far?
PB: The one that stands out for me was when he fought Steve Molitor at the Odyssey. Molitor was a big name at the time.
Carl what has Paddy’s best performance been so far?
CF: As a pro it was the last one at the Waterfront (against Silvio Olteannu). He looked more like a pro than he ever had. He was a hard wee man and he pushed him hard for 10 rounds.
I was six or seven fights into my career before I did my first six and I remember being punctured at the end of it thinking: ‘How am I ever going to fight 12 rounds?’ To do that so early on was a great performance.
I see a lot of chat among Belfast boxers on Twitter about TJV (the joint venture). What’s all that about?
CF: It’s a WhatsApp group. There are some big players in it.
PB: It’s people from sport and entertainment.
Paddy was bestman at your wedding Carl. What was his speech like?
CF: It was disappointing, I thought it was going to be far better than what it was…
No, it was good. He wanted to say at the end of his speech ‘Thank you very much Mr Eastwood’ but he didn’t say it because Barry (McGuigan) was there. He should have said it because it would have been funny.
I said to Barry about it and he said he should have said it.
PB: I didn’t want to offend too many people.
CF: We were young as well, I was 26 at the time. It would be a different speech today.
PB: Definitely different.
Did you get your own back at Paddy’s wedding Carl?
CF: Sure I wasn’t even his bestman, he picked this eejit from the Bone (Oldpark area of north Belfast). He rapped his speech like an American gangster. It was funny though.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since your early days. Has Carl changed much Paddy?
PB: No, he hasn’t got ahead of himself or anything. He’s still one of the lads and he behaves the way he always did. Obviously he’s matured a bit but he’s still down to earth, the same person he always was.
I probably know the answer to this one already, but has Paddy changed much Carl?
CF: No, he’s still the same. He still does and says what he wants. I’m only saying this because he’s my mate, but I hear him say some things and I think: ‘Paddy don’t be saying that!’
A lot of the things he says are true but he could himself a favour sometimes by not saying anything. He knows that.
PB: I do.
CF: He’s the exact same as he was when we were kids going down and getting a carryout for the train.
Some might say that the sign of a real friend is that they’ll tell you the truth even of you don’t like it?
CF: I remember in Vegas, Paddy was the first one to come and see me in the hotel after the fight. It wasn’t one of my better performances.
Me and Christine were there and I said something like: ‘It was s***e wasn’t it?’ and he just went: ‘Aye, f***in s***e’. I just went: ‘Thanks a lot mate’.
But he was right, he’s honest and he says it how it is.
You really thought that Paddy? I was there too and it was close so maybe that’s a bit harsh?
PB: I meant he could have been a lot better than he was and he knows that himself. He knew he didn’t perform on the night, he’s better than that and he’ll show that in the next few fights.
With all that straight-talking going on, have you ever fallen out?
CF: No, I don’t think we’ve had an argument. Maybe once when Paddy was making weight and I was singing in the hotel room.
As we know fall-outs do happen. After the Andres Guttierez fight fell through and Carl left Cyclone, did you help pave the way for him to join you at MTK Paddy?
PB: Carl was talking to a lot of people, Americans and all, and he’s his own man. He did what was right for him and he made his own decision.
There have been massive changes since August. Carl you’ve split with Cylcone. Now you’re trained by Jamie Moore and MTK, Frank Warren and BT Sport are all on board. Are you happy with your decision?
CF: Yeah, it’s the best decision I ever made I think. I’m genuinely enjoying boxing again, there’s good craic around the gym and MTK are advising me and they have some huge plans for the future.
The ideas they have with Frank Warren and BT are going to be huge.
You’re both on same bill on November 18. That’s something I couldn’t have seen happening a year ago?
CF: It was always something I wanted to do and I had said to Cyclone that it would be good to get Paddy on the shows. Me splitting and going to a new team means we’ll be on many more bills, this will be the first of many.
PB: I think I’ll be on every show Frampton is on, even if he’s fighting in America. What Carl has done is helping me and the rest of the fighters in Ireland get on big shows.
If Carl hadn’t joined MTK, would you have appeared on a Cyclone show Paddy?
PB: It could have happened. I would have done it.
As well as you two, there is an army of Irish fighters pushing to come through. Boxing is booming at the minute, why is that?
PB: A few years ago Irish amateur boxing was in a golden era and I was lucky to be a part of that. Now it’s the professional scene and you have Carl, Jamie Conlan fighting for a world title, Mick Conlan doing his thing in America and me turning professional as well. I think professional boxing is now in a golden era as well and I’m lucky to be a part of it too.
CF: We’re all just feeding off each other aren’t we? These eras come along every now and again and I think this is the best era there has been in terms of how many good pros we’ve got.
If I’m winning it’s good for everybody else because the shows keep coming and if Paddy and Mick Conlan and Jamie Conlan are winning we all help each other.
Looking back to how it all began, did either of you imagine that you’d get to this stage?
PB: I could never have seen anybody from this part of the world being as big as Carl is now. He’s a pound-for-pound star and it’s crazy but it’s totally justified. It’s amazing how far he’s come and I’ve known him since we were kids.
You must be proud to be his friend?
PB: Haha, he’s proud to be my mate.
Are you Carl?
CF: He’s a three-time Olympian, he’s won two medals. Too right I am, I tell everyone Paddy’s my mate.
You think you’ll ever get another carry-out coming up on the train from Dublin?
PB: Who knows?
CF: Why not? But I’m off the beer, I’m tee-total these days.