Just a few days had trickled past Christmas and into 2019 when Carl Frampton began to think about retiring following his devastating loss to Josh Warrington in Manchester. Frampton was handled firmly but competitively by his Yorkshire-born opponent, who gave the performance of his life on that December night.
Frampton’s enjoyed an impressive career up to now.
He won his first world title at super-bantamweight by out-pointing Kiko Martinez in 2014 before going on to unify against bitter rival Scott Quigg two years later.
Rematch negotiations stalled and Frampton moved on to fight handy Mexican Leo Santa Cruz at featherweight, beating him in New York but losing the rematch in Las Vegas.
When the chance rolled around to fight Warrington for another world title, Frampton was considered the favourite, but not by a massive stretch.
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After almost being floored in the first round, Frampton came back to win a few frames but ultimately lost a unanimous decision.
But approach a pre-pro Frampton and ask him if he’d have taken what he’s been served until now. Absolutely yes.
“I wanted to win a world title,” he exclusively tells Express Sport.
“If you’d have said to me and granted me a wish saying you’ll win it and then lose it in your first defence, I’d have taken it. Just so I could say I’d been a world champion. It was a real objective of mine.
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“But to unify the 122lb division and then move up and beat a great fighter in Leo Santa Cruz, I wouldn’t have imagined that at the start.
“I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved in my career.”
After deciding against retirement, a rollercoaster 2019 came. Frampton was scheduled to take on Emmanuel Dominguez in August before an ornament at the Philadelphia hotel he was staying at fell onto his hand and fractured his fifth metacarpal.
Broken hand and all, Frampton jumped into a November fight with American Tyler McCreary, dominating over 10 rounds to win a decision. The bout spelled more trouble for the Northern Irishman, however.
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He adds: “I went into the fight with a broken left hand. I felt like I couldn’t not fight because of the first half of the year, and then I broke my right hand in the fight.”
But Frampton’s next attempt at world title glory had been lined up by legendary promoter Bob Arum. WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring eagerly stepped into the ring and stood over Frampton with nonchalance.
The size difference was clear, but ‘three-weight world champion’ was a title that amateur fighter Frampton couldn’t have ever imagined would be said in front of his name.
“I was just thinking about the Herring fight in the ring,” Frampton says. “I didn’t know whether I needed an operation on my hands or if it was just time and rest.
“Initially I was thinking it’s great that Herring is here, it’s great he’s in the ring and it’s great Bob Arum has talked about the fight. I was just thinking let’s get these hands healed.”
Windsor Park in Belfast was talked about as a potential venue for a summer fight, but the coronavirus pandemic now stands in the way of Frampton and another world title.
The virus has wreaked global havoc, infecting over 1.3million people, and killing over 70,000. Phrases like ‘self-isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ have been all the rage over a turbulent last month.
Sport, as we know it, is at a complete standstill. The Premier League and the NBA, two of the biggest sports leagues in the world, have halted operation until it’s deemed safe to resume.
Boxing in Europe and North America, at least until July, is moot. But Frampton’s coping, like the rest of the world has to.
“We all have to find ways to cope with it,” he explains. “I’m getting a wee bit of cabin fever now. We’ve been self-isolating since before St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’m lucky I have a decent sized garden and the weather has been nice for the kids.
“I’ve been training at home with the bags and the pads, the date for Herring was June 13, I can’t renumber when I was supposed to go into camp… I think around March 16.
I want to win a big fight and then go out that way
“I got a bit of advice from a doctor from the British Board of Control, a guy called Mark Duffy and I asked his opinion when things were getting ropey. I asked whether I should travel and whether I should start camp or not. He suggested not because I may or may not get home because flights were getting cancelled.”
Frampton remains positive and hopeful that the Herring fight will come. He’ll be ‘happy enough’ if it happens in 2020. Herring seems to be exuding the same positivity on social media, where many have noticed that niceties being exchanged during the pair’s makeshift fight build-up.
“Jamel Herring is a nice guy,” he adds. “There’s no reason for me to be not nice, or for me to change my character or be obnoxious towards him.
“He’s in a similar situation to me, he’s got a young family he’s trying to provide for. That’s all it is really, it’s just a fight.”
So much has come following Frampton’s decision not to retire, and just last month he watched and winced at ex-rival Quigg’s painful final flurry in the ring against Jono Carroll.
Frampton doesn’t know when that time will come, but he wants it to be at the right moment. Perhaps after a win over Herring. Once the coronavirus passes, though, there’s one thing on the 5ft 5in fighter’s mind.
“I want to win a big fight and then go out that way,” Frampton admits. “Jamel Herring is a big man, he’s a southpaw and he’s very determined. You can tell in how he talks and how he fights, he’s mentally a very tough person but it’s a fight I believe I can win.
“But what I want to do as well after all this is go on holiday with my family. We’ve got one booked, Turkey in August, there’s about 22 of us going, a right squad. Whether it happens or not, who knows.”
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