Carl Frampton: Hugh Russell always had fighters’ interests at heart which can't be said of everyone

Hugh (right) records the weight as Frampton's hit the scales before the Nonito Donaire fight
Hugh (right) records the weight as Frampton's hit the scales before the Nonito Donaire fight

CARL Frampton didn’t get the chance to visit his old friend before he passed away. Frampton spoke with Hugh Russell on the phone last week and intended to go to the hospital to see him this week.

So he was stunned and deeply saddened when the news came through last Friday that ‘Hughie’ was gone.

Frampton was only a youngster when Hugh visited his club Midland ABC in the mid-1990s. The future world champion was much too young to remember Hugh winning his medal at the Moscow Olympics or becoming British champion, but he knew instinctively that he was in the presence of someone who had been there and done it. 

“I wasn’t aware of what he had done at that stage but the inspiration you get when you see somebody with a nice shiny Lonsdale belt… It wasn’t lost on me,” he says.

“I had heard he wasn’t well so I just phoned him and he answered straight away. I was dead, dead fond of Hughie, I really was. He was always smiling, I can still hear that wee giggle he did when he was telling one of his stories.

“I was very sad when I heard. It was in my head to get up to see him this week but obviously it’s too late now. He didn’t sound great on the phone but he was saying: ‘Ah it’s an open house kid, come up when you want’. I didn’t realise how aggressive it (the cancer) was and I’m sad that I didn’t get to see him.”

After the death of John Campbell in March, the Northern Ireland Area has now lost two stalwarts in quick succession. Part of Hugh’s role as a Northern Ireland Area Council Member and British Boxing Board of Control Board Steward was to monitor a fighters’ weight leading up to the weigh-in.

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He would have been involved with practically every boxer who appeared on a professional show here and Frampton says he always had the fighters’ best interests at heart.

“Hughie was just one of the best - as an official on the Board of Control he was brilliant,” he said.

“Typically, a lot of these guys haven’t boxed themselves so they don’t know what it’s like for a boxer making weight but Hughie did – he always had the fighters’ interests at heart which isn’t always the case for a lot of people involved in this game.

“And I’m not just talking about the home fighter. If you were a foreign journeyman coming in as well, Hughie looked after you, he looked after everybody.

“Even my kids knew him – I showed them the front page of The Irish News on Saturday and they remembered him from being around the shows.

“Everybody was fond of him.”

Conor Quinn won the Celtic flyweight title on Saturday night and now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Hugh Russell by winning the British title. Picture: Mark Mead
Conor Quinn won the Celtic flyweight title on Saturday night and now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Hugh Russell by winning the British title. Picture: Mark Mead

THE 10 bells – the boxing community’s sombre tribute to one of their own - rang out before the main event at the Girdwood Community Hub on Saturday night.

Hugh Russell, who had so sadly passed away before his time the previous day, would normally have been suited and booted at ringside as an official of the British Boxing Board. Knowledgeable and cheerful, Hugh had been ever-present at Belfast shows for many years and boxing won’t be the same without him.  

Fittingly, it was an emerging Belfast flyweight who stole the show. Conor Quinn won the Celtic title by stopping out-classed Chris Liddell and now he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Hugh Russell by winning the British title.   

“Hugh played such a big part in boxing over the years,” said Conor.

“He had his own career and then he went on to helping fighters like myself. I was determined to go out and put on a good performance, especially being in the flyweight division like Hugh was. I remember having a conversation with him when I fought at the SSE Arena. I was at super-fly then and he asked me would I be able to get down to flyweight because he felt that, if I could, I would be very hard to beat.

“I told him that was the plan and after the fight on Saturday night I thought about that. Hugh’s memory will live on for years and years in boxing.”

Quinn was determined to impress and he did just that. From the first round he looked in control and he broke Liddell down systematically until the fight was stopped in the seventh.

“I’m happy with the performance,” said Quinn.

“I knew what he was going to bring. I knew he was very tough and durable and strong but I knew I would be able to break him down by the end of the fight. It was just about getting the tactics right and I think we did exactly that.”

Quinn closed the distance and refused to let Liddell dictate the pace. He stamped his authority early on with a series of thumping left hands – uppercuts and hooks to the body – that gradually wore the Scot down until referee Ron Kearney called it off.

“The longer it went on the more my shots were having an effect,” said Quinn.

“I always like to throw a lead left uppercut and a left hook to the body. In sparring I’ve hurt plenty of people with it and I put plenty of people down in the last couple of camps with the bodyshots.

“Me and Dee (Walsh) had watched a bit of Liddell and we noticed that he is so focussed on going forward that he falls in a wee bit. I knew he was going to fall into my range and when they’re doing that the best thing to do is meet them with an uppercut.”

BBBofC Celtic Flyweight title: Conor Quinn (8-0-1) bt Chris Liddell (5-2) TKO7

Lightweight: John Cooney (9-0) bt Louis Norman (14-16-1) pts

Lightweight: Colm Murphy (9-0) bt Joshua Ocampo (8-17-5) pts

Super-middleweight: Dominic Donegan (9-6-1) lost to CJ Wood (5-17-2) pts

Featherweight: Connor Kerr (2-0) bt Luke Fash (3-95-3) pts