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Carl Frampton vs Scott Quigg: Rich reward and real hate for heirs of Wee Walter

When Frampton and Quigg collide on Saturday night there will be no love lost and much money to be gained by two streetwise fighters who came up the hard way. Steve Bunce reflects on their ascent and the similarities with another Briton who rose from obscurity to win a world title

Published 26/02/2016

Carl Frampton blows a kiss towards Scott Quigg as they go face to face at the weigh-in ahead of their Super-Bantamweight fight at the at Manchester Arena on February 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Carl Frampton blows a kiss towards Scott Quigg as they go face to face at the weigh-in ahead of their Super-Bantamweight fight at the at Manchester Arena on February 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of their World Super-Bantamweight unification fight, at Manchester Arena. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 26, 2016. Pic: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg go face to face at the weigh-in ahead of their Super-Bantamweight fight at the at Manchester Arena on February 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of their World Super-Bantamweight unification fight, at Manchester Arena. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 26, 2016. Pic: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of their World Super-Bantamweight unification fight, at Manchester Arena. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 26, 2016. Pic: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of their World Super-Bantamweight unification fight, at Manchester Arena. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 26, 2016. Pic: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg go face to face at the weigh-in ahead of their Super-Bantamweight fight at the at Manchester Arena on February 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of their World Super-Bantamweight unification fight, at Manchester Arena. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 26, 2016. Pic: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Carl Frampton blows a kiss towards Scott Quigg as they go face to face at the weigh-in ahead of their Super-Bantamweight fight at the at Manchester Arena on February 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Carl Frampton (second left) and Scott Quigg (second right) are restrained by promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton (third left) and Scott Quigg (third right) are restrained by promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton (second left) and Scott Quigg (second right) are restrained by promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Scott Quigg pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton (left) and Scott Quigg go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton (centre left) and Scott Quigg (centre right) alongside promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton (second left) and Scott Quigg (second right) alongside promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Scott Quigg during a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton (left) and Scott Quigg go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Trainer Shane McGuigan during a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester.Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton (second left) and Scott Quigg (second right) alongside promoters Barry McGuigan and Eddie Hearn go head to head after a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester. Simon Cooper/PA Wire.
Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg pictured at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Carl Frampton play's Stevie Wonders Very Superstitious over his phone to Scott Quigg over a row about dressing rooms at Thursdays press conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday nights World Super-Bantamweight unification clash at the Manchester Arena. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th February 2016 - Photo by William Cherry

Long before Scott Quigg was part of Saturday’s fight in Manchester and long before 10,000 set sail from Belfast for Carl Frampton’s part in the mayhem, the two boxers were anonymous scrappers in a forgotten realm.

The death last week of Wee Walter McGowan, one of only four British boxers to hold a world title in the Sixties, was a timely reminder of how the dirty old business of boxing worked; Quigg and Frampton are cut from the same harsh cloth as the brilliant Scotsman.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 27: World Champion Carl Frampton (R) is shoved by challenger Chris Avalos (L) at the pre-fight weigh-in ahead of the IBF World Super Bantamweight title fight between Carl Frampton and Chris Avalos on February 27, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 27: World Champion Carl Frampton (R) is shoved by challenger Chris Avalos (L) at the pre-fight weigh-in ahead of the IBF World Super Bantamweight title fight between Carl Frampton and Chris Avalos on February 27, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Champion Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of his title defence against Chris Avalos at the Odyssey Arena in February 2015.
I feel good: Carl Frampton at yesterday’s weigh-in at the Europa Hotel in February ahead of fight against Chris Avalos
Chris Avalos and Carl Frampton
IBF World super-bantamweight Champion Carl Frampton during the weigh in at The Europa Hotel in Belfast ahead of his title defence against Chris Avalos at the Odyssey Arena in February 2015 Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Champion Carl Frampton during the weigh-in ahead of his title defence against Chris Avalos at the Odyssey Arena
Carl Frampton weighs in in preparation for IBF Championship fight against Alejandro Gonzalez, Jr. in El Paso, Texas Picture by Jorge Salgado / Press Eye
Ready to rock: Carl Frampton squares up to Alejandro Gonzalez Jr in El Paso
Carl putting on a show at the weigh-in with Kiko Martinez in the Ulster Hall on September 5, 2014. Picture - Matt Mackey / Press Eye / Cyclone Promotions.
The two rivals stare each other down
Carl 'The Jackal' Frampton weigh-in with Kiko Martinez in the Ulster Hall, Belfast
Carl 'The Jackal' Frampton weigh-in with Kiko Martinez in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. Matt Mackey / Press Eye / Cyclone Promotions
In terrific shape: a smiling Carl Frampton at the September 2014 weigh-in ahead of fight with Kiko Martinez. PHOTO COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER PRESS

They collide, which is the right word, on Saturday at the Manchester Arena for two world title belts, with too much pride and enough bad manners to make a case for this having as much nastiness attached as the rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves in 2014 at Wembley Stadium. If this fight had fallen in the summer then a crowd of 50,000 would not have been a shock. This is not a phoney war.

In the Sixties McGowan alternated between sellouts at Wembley, in Bangkok and in Rome, where he seemed to fight all the time, and cameos at gentlemen-only sporting clubs behind closed doors.

He took risky fights in the weeks before major bouts and was often back in the ring just weeks after gruelling 15-rounders. It was a relentless and unforgiving business that McGowan briefly ruled and he was out of the game after his personal wars, having had more fights than either Quigg or Frampton, by the time he was 28; Quigg is 27 and Frampton 29.

<< Carl Frampton v Scott Quigg - Everything you need to know> >

When Quigg turned professional in 2007 he was fighting way under any radars in front of 200 or so at dinner shows in obscure hotels, where the topless raffle ticket sellers and blue comedian are the real attractions. He was beyond the circuit that wistful observers like to tag as “old school”; he was grubbing a living on the undercards of now vanished fighters and nobody was looking.

Frampton went pro two years later after a short journey near the elite level of the amateur business and he also fought in obscurity, but he was being protected from the inevitable pressure and expectation firmly attached to any quality Belfast product. He won in Huddersfield, Middlesborough and Bethnal Green; his first fight was at a venue in Liverpool that once had two camels living in its basement. McGowan would have approved.

Now the pair hold a world title each, two of 12 that British boxers have, and are unbeaten, slick players in a business that will reward them with millions for Saturday’s fight. McGowan would have no idea about the sums, having been tempted to Thailand by 10 grand 50 years ago to lose his world title.

There was talk of Quigg fighting Frampton four years ago and it was more than just idle chat putting the pair together. Thankfully, that never happened and now they will split ridiculous riches from the gate and the pay-per-view sales.

Eddie Hearn, the co-promoter of Saturday’s fight, was once in Frampton’s camp and talked boldly of Frampton knocking out Quigg; he is now in Quigg’s camp and talks boldly of Quigg knocking out Frampton. It’s not quite as contradictory and ruthless as Don King once was, but it is still an impressive piece of repositioning.

In 1973 King was involved with the Sunshine Showdown in Jamaica between the world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and the raw but lethal George Foreman. King arrived at the venue with Frazier in the champ’s limo and entered the ring with Frazier but, after each brutal knockdown inflicted by Foreman’s iron fists, he moved further away from the corner.

At the end of the fight, Foreman was the new heavyweight world champion and Frazier, after six knockdowns, was the loser: King stepped over Frazier to switch camps, left the ring with Foreman and travelled back to the celebratory party in the new champion’s limo. “Ain’t it a bitch?” King told me once when I reminded him about the story, but added: “I never stepped over Joe, I like Joe. I stepped around him.”

There has been a deeply personal edge to Saturday’s fight – nothing fake – since it was announced and sold out in minutes. Some old wounds from the short dalliance of the Frampton team, which includes the highly volatile Barry McGuigan, with Hearn’s business have left the type of sores that fester for a long time in the boxing world.

A short three-city press tour was brutal at times and both sets of major players have claimed tiny victories from the skirmishes. It is refreshing to have two rival camps that are honest enough to speak of their hatred for each other. Last December there was a nasty fight, after years of insults, between Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte and neither shook hands at the end – it’s not particularly sporting, but it is honest; Saturday’s fight has many of the same hateful characteristics.

It can get annoying when I hear people waffling on about respect when I know that the two boxers, their promoters and their trainers detest each other. Wee Walter would understand and he would take it personally.

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