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Carl Frampton: "More than I could ever have imagined..."

In for the kill. A left hook sends Leo Santa Cruz staggering across the ring in Brooklyn
In for the kill. A left hook sends Leo Santa Cruz staggering across the ring in Brooklyn In for the kill. A left hook sends Leo Santa Cruz staggering across the ring in Brooklyn

“I hope people remember me as someone who had courage and showed a bit of balls when I had to. I dug in and never gave up. I’d be happy with that.”

Carl Frampton

MANY a night, in many a ring the other lad’s hand was raised and he had to slip back through the ropes and go home disappointed.

‘Ah, not to worry son, next time…’

But he was the one who went on to win the world titles, top the bill in Las Vegas, pack out Windsor Park…

Carl Frampton often thinks about that.

“I can only put it down to my attitude and determination,” he says.

“Other lads maybe didn’t have that and maybe that made me and bit different from most. If you have the right dedication and attitude you can go a long way. There are so many wasted talents. I think of some lads: ‘Aye, he was a smasher’ but he never did anything.

“You have these guys sitting in the bars saying: ‘I beat Carl Frampton when I was a kid’ but, so what, there needs to be more than that, you need to apply yourself. If you want to make it in anything you need to dedicate yourself.”

MAYBE not being feted as the young superstar is what kept Frampton so grounded. Throughout his brilliant 12-year career that included eight world title fights – four at his optimum super-bantamweight where he won IBF and WBA titles, three at featherweight including the WBA title win and the last a challenge for WBO belt at super-feather – he obstinately kept his feet on the ground.

The back cover of his book ‘Carl Frampton My Autobiography’ carries a quote from Paddy Kielty that reads: ‘Arguably the greatest Irish boxer of all time’.

Arguably?

“Could you not have come up with somebody who’d have said: ‘Definitely the greatest Irish boxer of all time?’ I asked him.

“I’m happy with arguably,” he says.

“It’s an argument and I’m happy to be involved in the argument. There’s a case for Steve Collins and Katie Taylor and I suppose (Barry) McGuigan as well. Then people like ‘Rinty’ Monaghan get forgotten about as well, don’t they?

“Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley is another one. There’s a list so I’m happy to be in the conversation, it’s as simple as that. I can’t say I’m the greatest boxer ever from Ireland. If some people want to say I am that’s ok but there’s been so many good fighters.

“If I had beat Jamel Herring (WBO super-featherweight champion) I would have been happy to call myself ‘the Greatest’. I would have been a three-weight world champion and there aren’t many have done that. But I didn’t, so I can’t.”

Caught in the middle. Frampton with Shane and Barry McGuigan before the infamous Andres Guttierez fight that never happened
Caught in the middle. Frampton with Shane and Barry McGuigan before the infamous Andres Guttierez fight that never happened Caught in the middle. Frampton with Shane and Barry McGuigan before the infamous Andres Guttierez fight that never happened

HIS autobiography, brilliantly written by Paul Gibson, is a page-turner. So many golden memories of glory nights with Frampton’s trademark made-in-Belfast sense of humour jumping out from the pages.

But, like his boxing days, when he needs to get serious, he gets serious.

When I mentioned to another ex-boxer that I’d got an advance copy he immediately asked: ‘Did you jump straight to the McGuigan stuff?’

That’s exactly what I did and, as you’d expect, there are plenty of pages devoted to Barry, his Cyclone Promotions boys and also his wife Sandra who had an influential role behind the scenes. 

“It’s a big part of it,” says Frampton.

“I spent the majority of my career with them – the successful years, when I was in my prime. One thing I’ll always give Barry credit for is that he got me the media attention.

“Sometimes the attention around me on undercard fights was massive because Barry was my manager. I imagine that Paul McCloskey, who was topping the bills that I was on, might have been a wee bit annoyed. I remember thinking at the time: ‘If I was him, I’d be a bit pissed off’.

“There were some good times with the McGuigans but a lot of bad times as well and a lot of manipulation. I was just a young naïve idiot at times. I was too trusting.”

To put it bluntly, Frampton was treated like a mushroom - kept in the dark and fed shit. Money flooded in but by the time everyone else had taken their cut there wasn’t enough left for the man who was generating all of it.

“When you trust someone you just believe that they have your best interests at heart and that’s what I did,” says Frampton.

“I sought out the accountants in Belfast and they're asking the McGuigans mundane accountancy questions about doing my books.

“The McGuigans aren’t happy about these questions and they tell me: ‘This accountant doesn’t have a clue how boxing works, come with our accountant’. And I did that. As if accountants need to know anything about boxing! But I believed all that and lapped it up.”

The only contract he got an independent solicitor to look over was the first “bog standard” boxer-manager contract with Barry McGuigan. The solicitor said it was fine so he signed and never sought advice for the rest including an ‘International Promotion Agreement’ which gave the family complete control over his affairs.

“I was just a silly boy for a long time,” he admits.

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HOW much did the Cyclone Promotions relationship cost him? He can’t talk about the court settlement figure (the book goes into the case in detail) but you get an indication from the book and can make your own judgement. For example, there was around £2million in the pot from the second Kiko Martinez fight and Frampton was paid £140,000 - just seven per cent of the overall pot.

“I wanted to tell my side of it,” he explains.

“There were things discovered that I didn’t even know about but the inquest happened during Covid so people weren’t allowed in court and there wasn’t much media about. I was going home to watch the news thinking: ‘That wasn’t picked up’. In the court I was thinking: ‘These guys are fucked’ I couldn’t understand why they were still going through with it because they were getting hammered.

“It wasn’t portrayed in the media like that. I think people had an affinity with Barry and didn’t want to upset the applecart but if you read this book and you still have an affinity for him then you need to give your head a shake.

“I love telling people about them, trying to expose them but I’m not stewing about it every day, it’s not something that I’m bitter about inside. I don’t like them but I’m not thinking about them constantly.

“I don’t think they should be allowed anywhere near a British Board of Control boxing event. Any of them.”

Win-dsor Park. Frampton celebrates victory against Luke Jackson
Win-dsor Park. Frampton celebrates victory against Luke Jackson Win-dsor Park. Frampton celebrates victory against Luke Jackson

DOES he miss boxing now? He misses the craic in the gym with Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis and some of his old mates but, apart from that, no, not at all.

Looking back on all the ups and downs, he agrees it was a great journey over 12 years. 

“I over-achieved if I’m being honest,” he says.

“Look at some of the great fighters who don’t ever get to call themselves a world champion. I’m very happy with what I achieved. If you’d offered to me when I started that I’d win the world title but lose it again in my first defence I’d have taken that just to be able to call myself a world champion.

“So to unify a division and then win at the next weight and try to do it at a third weight… That’s more than I could ever have imagined at the start, so I can’t complain.”

A few highlights...

Coming of age: Frampton v Martinez I (September 9, 2013) Won TKO9

“It was a hard fight. That one and the Warrington fight were the two toughest. I knocked him out in the ninth round but it was a hard, hard fight.

“After the weigh-in before that fight Gerry Storey had told me he wasn’t going to be in the corner – he felt he was being pushed out and I understand why he thought that but it wasn’t great timing. He could have left it until afterwards but I didn’t argue with him, I gave him a hug. There was a lot going on.

“I was told that it would be difficult for four rounds and after that he’d slow down but by round eight he still hadn’t slowed down, he was increasing the pace.

“To cope with that was difficult so I think I did really well in that fight.”

World champion on an unforgettable night at the Titanic Slipway
World champion on an unforgettable night at the Titanic Slipway World champion on an unforgettable night at the Titanic Slipway

One night: Frampton v Martinez II (September 6, 2014) IBF super-bantamweight title

A YEAR later Frampton met his old foe again at a purpose-built stadium on the Titanic Slipway. This time the world title was on the line and Frampton was electric. Kiko had to take four punches to land one.

“It was an amazing night,” he says.

“To fight for the world title in Belfast as the challenger. It was almost a feeling of relief more than anything: ‘I’ve done it now’. It was amazing.”

The Peak: Frampton v Santa Cruz I (July 30, 2016) WBA featherweight title, Barclays Centre, New York  

HE beat Scott Quigg in Manchester in February to unify the super-bantamweight division and then crossed the Atlantic to meet Santa Cruz in Brooklyn.

“That was me in my prime,” he says.

“That was a big upset to beat Santa Cruz. A lot of the American media didn’t think I could beat him, so to go out and do that was a big moment.”

A third fight when we’re 50?

FRAMPTON and Santa Cruz met again in Las Vegas the following January and this time Santa Cruz won on points. Afterwards, Frampton began to feel that the McGuigan’s looked on him as a spent force and lost interest with Shane McGuigan claiming: “He’s got one more fight in him”.

There was talk of a trilogy fight but Cyclone had dropped the ball.

“The third Santa Cruz fight should have happened,” says Frampton.

“There was no rematch clause. Al Haymon twisted Barry’s arm and said: ‘I think Carl will win the second fight so you won’t need (a third) but trust me… Let’s shake on it and if Leo wins we’ll do a rematch! Like who does anything on a handshake in boxing? It’s the dirtiest business in the world and Barry should have known that.

“It should have happened and it’s a shame that it didn’t, I would happily have gone to LA and fought him in his own backyard. It’s 1-1, two great fights – maybe we’ll do the third one when we’re 50, make a few quid when we’re skint? I don’t know.”

One that got away: Frampton v Warrington (December 22, 2018) Manchester Arena. Lost Pts

BEATING Warrington would have been the perfect finale to his career but the Leeds Warrior came up with a vicious early attack and, although he fought like the warrior he was, Frampton couldn’t wrestle back the initiative.  

“I underestimated his punching power,” he admits.

“You could understand why because he had about six knockouts up to that point. I’ve been in with big punchers and there was nothing to suggest he could hurt me.

“I knew he was strong and aggressive and fit but I thought he couldn’t hurt me and, fuck me, he hurt me about 30 seconds into the first round. I did well to stay in the fight I suppose and win a few rounds in the middle but going out for the fourth I felt like I’d already done 12. I’m proud that I stayed in after the disastrous start but I got hurt a number of times in that fight.”

Scandals: Gutierrez and the pillar in Philly

AFTER losing to Santa Cruz in Las Vegas, Frampton was due to return to action against Andres Gutierrez. That all was not well in the camp was clear as Frampton failed to make the weight. The fight went ahead but, amid swirling controversy, it was cancelled after the Mexican hurt himself when he slipped in his hotel shower.

That was what happened, Frampton insists…

“The Gutierrez thing: I saw him six months before the fight and he was heavy but he made the weight,” he says.

“He had lost a lot of weight and I’d imagine he went back to the hotel and loaded up on carbs and his blood sugar has gone mad and he passed out in the shower. That’s my theory. There was loads of stories going around that I got him filled in. But they make no sense.”

Frampton split with the McGuigans afterwards and Jamie Moore took over. After the loss to Warrington, Frampton was due to return in Philadelphia against Emmanuel Dominguez. Another accident – a pillar was knocked over in the hotel foyer and it landed on Frampton’s left hand – meant another fight was called off.

“If you put them together then I probably wouldn’t have believed it – a guy slipped in the shower and then, a few fights later, somebody knocks a big pillar onto your hand…

“But that’s what happened. Jamie Moore knocked it over and I was 30 grand down for a training camp.”