Northern Ireland news

Boxing manager Barry McGuigan denies stealing from boxer Carl Frampton branding suggestions as 'ludicrous'

Barry McGuigan left on the way to the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell.

BOXING manager Barry McGuigan yesterday dismissed allegations that he kept money from Carl Frampton as "ludicrous".

He told the High Court that his twin objectives were to ensure the Belfast fighter won a world title and earned as much as possible - and that he achieved both.

Giving evidence in the legal battle between the pair, Mr McGuigan also described his former protege's current managerial agents as "despicable".

Mr Frampton, a 33-year-old former two-weight world champion, is suing for alleged withheld earnings during their eight-year relationship.

His case involves claims against Cyclone Promotions UK Ltd - of which Mr McGuigan was a director - over purse fees, broadcasting rights, ticket sales and merchandising.

A counter lawsuit has been filed against the boxer, accusing him of breach of contact when he split from the company in 2017.

Both men deny the respective allegations against him.

On day ten of the case Mr McGuigan, himself a former world champion, set out how he negotiated million dollar purses and secured his former protege's dream to headline in Las Vegas.

He told the court that his sons and Mr Frampton were "like best mates" while the family guided his career.

"They knew I wanted the very best for Carl; the best money, the best opportunities," he said.

But their relationship ended after they came to Belfast for an ill-fated scheduled fight against Andres Gutierrez in July 2017.

The contest was ultimately called off when the Mexican slipped and injured himself in the shower on the eve of the bout.

By that stage, however, Mr Frampton had already failed to make the weight - a development which left his former manager "surprised and shocked".

"He just ate too much, drank too much. He just was ill-disciplined and didn't do it property," Mr McGuigan said.

The plan was for the fight to be an eliminator that would lead to another world-title shot, the court heard.

"It just knocked the stuffing out of everybody, and it just dumbed down the fight in general," Mr McGuigan said.

Earlier in the hearing it was claimed that Mr McGuigan ignored the fighter while they were together at a Co Antrim gym to prepare for the Gutierrez contest.

But he insisted: "That's just completely wrong. "Why would I ignore him?"

Describing how he discovered the boxer was ending their relationship, he said: "He sent a series of letters to us and told us he was terminating the contract."

Mr McCollum then put it to him: "Have you ever stolen from Mr Frampton? Have you ever concealed any money from him."

He responded: "No, never."

On being asked if he had every "siphoned" money off into his own accounts, he said: "That's ludicrous, no."

The barrister went on: "In your time looking after Mr Frampton what was your prime objective?"

Mr McGuigan responded: "Two prime objectives - get him to the top, get him to a world title fight, and get him as much money as I can."

When asked if he thought he had achieved those aims, he said: "I think I did, yes."

He also delivered a blunt assessment about the role in boxing played by Mr Frampton's current management agents MTK Global.

"They are despicable," Mr McGuigan said.

Since Mr Frampton's departure he has lost another four fighters to MTK, the court heard.

He successfully objected to the British Boxing Board of Control about those four moves.

"I was exonerated and allowed to get my percentage of their purses right to the end of their contracts," Mr McGuigan.

Similar proceedings in connection with Mr Frampton have been put on hold until the High Court case finishes.

In evidence the boxer claimed Mr McGuigan had not attended meetings with rival promoter Eddie Hearn due to fears he would hit him.

"That's again nonsense. We work together at the minute and I have a fine relationship with Mr Hearn."

During cross-examination Mr McGuigan was questioned about his disqualification as a company director in Northern Ireland for five years in the mid-1990s.

Gavin Millar QC, for Mr Frampton, asked why he had not revealed those details to the boxer when they started working together in 2009.

"I didn't think it was relevant, or I would have said to him," Mr McGuigan replied.

Mr Millar contended that disclosing details about a director's disqualification must have been relevant to a manager's financial obligations to a boxer.

But Mr McGuigan responded: "I disagree with you."

Throughout his evidence he maintained that Mr Frampton was always advised to get independent legal advice before signing any of their contracts.

The court also heard how his son, Shane McGuigan, took over as Mr Frampton's trainer on the eve of him defeating Kiko Martinez to win the European super bantamweight title in February 2013.

Before that veteran Belfast coach Gerry Storey had been his cornerman.

Mr Millar suggested: "Gerry Storey was cold-shouldered and pushed out of the training relationship by you in favour of Shane."

According to Mr McGuigan, however, it was Mr Storey who decided to "step out".

It was put to him that Mr Storey decided to quit because he knew "the writing was on the wall".

Mr McGuigan responded: "I don't want to say this, but if you're going to force it out of me he simply wasn't good enough to make those changes to Carl's style that would have made him a world champion."

Asked if the trainer went before he was pushed, he added: "He may have done, but I would have done it with a bit more grace."

At the centre of the case is an alleged conflict of interest in Mr McGuigan's dual role as manager and promoter.

He was taken in detail through duties set out in a managerial contract to act independently and in the boxer's best interests.

Mr McGuigan insisted he always beat any offers from rival promoters and that his fighter had been happy.

Mr Millar submitted that the contractual obligation was there to deal with a risk of conflict of interest.

Referring to Mr McGuigan's own memoir, counsel went on: "You expressed the view there should never be any financial connection whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, between a manager or a promoter."

But Mr McGuigan told him the contract he had signed as a fighter in 1981 was completely different to the one Mr Frampton penned in 2009.

The hearing continues.

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