Carl Frampton walks away a legend of the fight game after retirement insists Wayne McCullough

Carl Frampton announced his retirement from the ring after Saturday night's defeat to American Jamel Herring. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

WAYNE McCullough was a man who inspired Carl Frampton when he took his first steps into the fight game – and the ‘Pocket Rocket’ insists Frampton leaves the sport as a legend after announcing his retirement from the fight game.

‘The Jackal’ was bidding to become Ireland’s first three-weight world champion when he challenged Jamel Herring for the super-featherweight belt in Dubai on Saturday night.

However, the tall, rangy American was just too big, too strong and too accurate as he forced a sixth round stoppage having dropped Frampton twice, the Tigers Bay man confirming his retirement immediately afterwards.

Frampton - wearing a t-shirt in tribute to former amateur coach Billy McKee - was clearly emotional post-fight, and McCullough says it will take time to come to terms with the fact a career that began inside Midland ABC at eight years old is now over.

But once the dust settles, the 34-year-old will realise the legacy he has created, and the unforgettable nights that came along the way as he swept to super-bantam and featherweight world crowns.

“Carl is right up there with the top guys,” said former WBC champion McCullough, speaking from his Las Vegas home.

“He’ll sit down now and relax with his family, it’ll take time but eventually he will see the impact he made and how only very few people have done what he has done.

“You can’t take anything away from him. He’s fighting to become a three-division world champion, his legacy is there. Even if you’re a one-weight world champion, coming from a small country like ours that’s a great achievement.

“I texted him straight after and told him ‘keep the head up buddy, love you, I loved your shirt’. I know he was upset and I understand that, it was hard to watch, but he hasn’t let anybody down at all through his career. The opposite in fact, he’s achieved amazing things and he should be so proud of that.

“Carl’s a legend, and I’m honoured to be the guy that he looked up to when he was starting out. Hopefully now there’s some kid somewhere who has been watching him and follows in his footsteps.”

Like Frampton, McCullough also challenged for top honours in three weight divisions, and knew the huge challenge ‘The Jackal’ faced against Herring.

“Herring’s a tough guy, we all knew that going into the fight. He’s no pushover. He’s like a Tommy Hearns, I don’t know how he does the weight at his height but he makes it easy - probably because of the discipline he has through his military background.

“Honestly, I take my hat off to Carl for taking the fight. Fair play to him. It’s tough going up through three divisions, I did the same myself.

“I started at bantamweight and I was unbeaten there, the same way Carl was at super-bantam. But then you go up and you fight a Daniel Zaragoza and, even though I still think I won the fight, he was bigger. And then you go up again to fight Naseem Hamed and he probably came into the ring 10 pounds heavier than me.

“The punch power is different as you go up, you’re getting hit harder. The guys are stronger. Before the fight Carl was talking about out-jabbing Herring, which you can do sometimes. It’s hard against a long guy but he’s done it before, so I was surprised to see him coming forward because Carl isn’t a come forward fighter.

“Inside he managed to land some good right hands, he cut Herring - I gave him the third and fourth rounds, and at that stage he looked like he was settling into it a little bit.

“But the jab was key. It opens the door and closes the door, and getting inside Herring’s jab isn’t easy.”

Walking away from the fight game is seldom easy, and McCullough admits he found it tough to adapt in the years after. But Frampton had been hinting that the end may not be too far away in recent years, admitting that he strongly considered calling time in the wake of his 2019 loss to Josh Warrington.

Nights like that, even though he came out on the wrong side, are a part of Frampton’s story. The only frustration for McCullough, Frampton and fight fans across the world is the fact the trilogy fight with Leo Santa Cruz didn’t take place.

‘The Jackal’ came up trumps after their first encounter in Brooklyn five years ago before Santa Cruz regained his title the following January. Talk swirled around about a definitive third bout, only for fans to be left wondering as Frampton exits the stage while Santa Cruz picks up the pieces from a devastating knockout defeat to Gervonta Davis last year.

“The first Santa Cruz fight was huge - to beat a guy like that in America was a big thing. Both of those fights were so close,” said McCullough.

“The Scott Quigg fight in England was massive too – an Irishman going over to England and beating him on his home turf, that’s special. Quigg was undefeated, it was a big box office fight, a huge event, and he won it.

“Santa Cruz hasn’t talked about fighting since he was demolished but if he said to Carl in a few months how about a third one down the line, who knows? Boxing has thrown up stranger things.

“But Carl doesn’t need it. He announced his retirement in the ring, he only lost to great fighters and he’s going out on his own terms. Not everybody gets to do that.”

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