Boxing: Frampton has glory in his sights
It was the call he never saw coming and when Carl Frampton heard his dream European title fight was off the Belfast man was on the canvas.
Frampton had clocked up 146 rounds of sparring, countless miles of roadwork and then a fortnight before his big clash with European super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez a phone call to manager Barry McGuigan ended what many believed was going to be the fight of the night at the Odyssey Arena.
This Saturday night he will still take a signficant step up in class and fight Aussie Mark Kuon for the vacant Commonwealth title but admits he took some time for him to deal with the withdrawal of Martinez, whose father is seriously ill.
“I was just finishing up my sparring when Barry took the call and I could see he was finding it hard to tell me and when he did I just felt like crying,” said Frampton.
“I’d been working so hard for the fight with Kiko, every night going to be I was going through the fight in my head and I could never see any scenario in which he was going to beat me.
“It was going to be such a great fight and it was everything that I had dreamed about. I knew I could win it, my sparring was fantastic and then to hear it was off was just devastating.
“Then there was the whole thing about getting me another opponent. I told Barry that I’ll fight anyone in Europe, I don’t care who it is.
“Matchroom worked very hard to get another opponent, they asked Rendall Munroe but he turned it down, they asked Willie Casey and he said no and both of them are former European champions.
“Then an unbeaten Spanish kid Joaquin Cespedes was offered the fight for the EU title but Sky were not keen on the EU belt and then finally I got to fight for the vacant Commonwealth title.
“The whole thing went on for a week and it was very tough but I managed to keep my head down and train hard and now I’m just glad that in my 11th fight I’m fighting for the Commonwealth super-bantamweight title.
“I think one thing that helped me deal with the massive blow of Martinez pulling out was the fact that Christine and the child were over for the weekend but it was very tough.”
Now, he is totally focused on Kuon on Saturday night and showing the Belfast public as well as those watching on Sky that he is a real force to be reckoned with in the super-bantamweight division.
“My amateur trainer Billy McKee has done a great job for me, he’s sold about 1,000 tickets from the gym so I know I’m going to have great support at the Odyssey,” he said.
“Fighting at the Odyssey is going to be terrific. I’ve been trying to think about just what the atmosphere will be like and really I don’t think I can fully know what to expect — only that it is going to be electric.
“I haven’t seen a lot of this guy but from what I have and what I’ve been told he seems to like to box from distance and holds his hands high but really I just have to be ready for anything on Saturday night.”
Many fighters facing up to such stage in only their 11th bout would find the context quite daunting but having watched the Tiger’s Bay man from early on in his amateur days I would expect him to relish the occasion.
“You know Barry says that even when I am in the gym sparring I can get a bit lazy, go through the motions when there’s nobody about but when there’s a crowd I tend to really turn it on.
“I’ve no doubt that I will love the atmosphere and the challenge of performing in front of a very big crowd and just wait until you hear my ring entrance music, it’s going to be amazing.
“One of the Crusaders players Gareth McKeown has sorted it out for me and I know a few of the other players are coming to see me as well.
“To be the main supporting fight is terrific and I know that I’ll be coming away from the Odyssey with the Commonwealth belt.”
No doubt he will also be thinking about the little Spaniard and getting his hands on that European belt.
Frampton added: “Of course it’s a fight that I still want and I know the public want to see it.”