Boxing

From fighting for his life to fighting for an Ulster title: the story of Frankie Carrothers

From fighting for his life to fighting for another crack at the game he loves, Frankie Carrothers has come through more battles than he cares to remember. Climbing back between the ropes tonight marks the end of a long road, and what he hopes can be the start of another, as Neil Loughran finds out...

Thirteen years after fighting for his life after being struck down by meningitis, Frankie Carrothers will make his Ulster Elite Championship bow in tonight's super-heavyweight showdown against Patrick Rogers. Picture by Matt Bohill

THIRTEEN years ago Frankie Carrothers was lying unconscious in a hospital bed, fighting for his life. In the days before taking himself down to the Royal, he knew something wasn’t right.

The headaches just wouldn’t shift. The next day his nose started to bleed and wouldn’t stop. The next day... well, he’s not even sure about the next day.

“I was just talking up the left, hallucinating, seeing things, talking stupid.

“I went to the doctors and was told I was run down and needed to go home to bed. That was on the Thursday...”

By Sunday, he was in the intensive care ward having been placed in a medically-induced coma. Just 16 years old, the west Belfast man was in the fight of his life, battling the meningitis that shut down his system.

Eleven days he was in the Royal, every one of them family and friends praying it wasn’t his last.

“It was touch and go... I was critically ill.

“Eventually they brought me out of the coma and I was moved over to the City hospital for two weeks for dialysis because my kidneys had failed. They thought that was going to be long term, on dialysis for life, but thankfully I came through that too and made a full recovery.

“It’s scary to think about it now. I know how lucky I was, how lucky I am to still be here.”

At the Devenish Complex tonight, the 29-year-old taxi driver ends an eight-year exodus from boxing when he takes on Patrick Rogers in the super-heavyweight semi-final of the Ulster Elite Championships.

Armed with possibly the best moniker of any other Irish fighter, amateur or pro, Frankie ‘Bring Your Brothers’ Carrothers will raise the roof when he emerges from the changing room and begins his walk to the ring.

“I’ve big Paul McCullagh sr to thank for that one,” he laughs, “he put me down as that for a fight night and it stuck.

“Before I got sick I had actually boxed for Clonard, but then I was out for a long time after. I was 20 or 21 by the time I came back, and that was because of Gerard McCafferty at St John Bosco... that’s why that club means everything to me.

“I found my way back to boxing through them. I love Gerard to bits, he did so much for me, and I still go up there and help out with the kids.”

Carrothers will represent Gleann tonight because he is being trained by coach and friend Dee Walsh at the Glen Road club. He used to help Walsh out with sparring towards the end of his pro career, though their bond dates back to schooldays at Corpus Christi College.

After deciding to give boxing another crack last November, helping hands were stretched out straightaway. But before he could even consider lacing up gloves again, Carrothers had to get himself moving in the right direction.

There was only one way to go.

“I had to get the weight down.

“I just wasn’t happy. If you’re not fit, not healthy, it has a knock-on effect on your life in general. See when you’re fit and healthy, you’re happy.

“I had no real intention of boxing again, it was just for my own health, I had to do something.”

Starting out at The Unit fitness and performance centre run, Carrothers undertook the ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge under the watchful eye of Mark Rainey.

He hasn’t looked back since.

“From August to now I’ve taken five stone off – I got three stone off with Mark during his six-week programme, and have just gone on from there.

“I still have a long way to go, but I know the progress I’ve made from then to now.”

As the weight dropped from him, thoughts gradually returned to the squared circle. There was no competitive ambition initially but, once the bug comes back, it can be hard to shake.

“I just wanted to give it another go. I’ve always loved boxing but, apart than training kids, I hadn’t done anything in eight years.

“I’ve trained with Dee and watched Dee for years. Technically, I think he’s brilliant, one of the best coaches out there at the minute. I went up with him for a week, and I was rusty as anything.

“My timing was so off… even wee things like turning your head away when you were punching. I was basically starting off again, and those kind of wee stupid mistakes I’d be pulling kids for, I was basically doing the same.

“But Dee and Dan Anderson have been unbelievable, Joe Downey’s done all my strength and conditioning – he’s been so positive. Already he’s been on to me about coming back down.

“A lot of the pros who train up with Dee when they’re home, guys like Sean McComb and Caoimhin Hynes, have all been really supportive. The craic’s great, and they all know the work I’ve put in.

“Thirteen weeks ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be at this point, but here we are.”

Frankie Carrothers with coach Dee Walsh and professional boxer Owen O'Neill at Gleann BC. Picture by Matt Bohill

Considering where we was 13 years ago, next mind 13 weeks, fighting for fun holds no fear compared to fighting for his life. Tonight can’t come quickly enough.

“I’m more than proud of myself,” he smiles.

“There’ll still be people looking at me, judging me, but anybody who knows me, they know how far I’ve come and what I’ve done to get to this point.

“I know I’m throwing myself in at the deep end, but that’s okay. As long as I can get out of that ring on Thursday night and say I gave it my all… regardless of the results of these championships, I’ll be straight back into the gym, continuing to move forward.

“It’s been mad really. So many people have been in touch, wishing me well… it’s been the best feeling. I’ve thrown myself into this, now I just can’t wait to get in and fight again.”

ULSTER ELITE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Tonight (8pm)

Semi-finals

57kg: K Marshall (Emerald) v C Murphy (St George’s)

57kg: JP Hale (Star) v C Kerr (Monkstown)

63kg: D Bradley (Errigal) v Jack McGivern (St George’s)

63kg: C Ferguson (Emerald) v D Clarke (Monkstown)

69kg: E McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda) v E Vuskans (Holy Trinity)

69kg: T Duffy (Clonard) v M McCole (Illies GG)

91kg: T Maughan (Cavan) v K Dlugosz (Immaculata)

91kg: S McMullan (Newington) v M Erpelding (Holy Family, Belfast)

91+kg: W Close (BABA) v D Boriskins (Sacred Heart, Newry)

91+kg: F Carrothers (Gleann) v P Rogers (St John’s, Derry)

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