Belfast Telegraph boxing writer David Kelly reports from inside the Carl Frampton training camp in Battersea ahead of his European title fight at the Odyssey on February 9
Fame clearly has its benefits, particularly it seems when an irate builder feels your car has come a little too close to him as he has tried to make his way across the road. Just when it seemed a burst of invective was coming Barry McGuigan’s way as he left his charcoal grey Jaguar, the mood was turned upside down.
“It’s f****** Barry McGuigan! Hey, look it’s Barry McGuigan,” roared the 6ft 3’, 16st labourer whose anger was quashed immediately as he and his colleague doffed their yellow hard hats and had them autographed by the former World featherweight champion.
It’s an amusing start to another day in which McGuigan will be juggling many demands on his time, though the number one priority is that all is well with his fighter, whom he believes can one day follow in his footsteps by becoming a world champion and then even surpass his achievements.
The enthusiasm and regard he has for Carl Frampton as a fighter and a man is almost suffocating in its intensity. Right from the moment he signed the Belfast man McGuigan told the world he was special and he remains adamant that time will prove him right.
“I believe this kid can not only become a world champion but he can win world titles at super-bantamweight and featherweight. That’s a bold statement and people might think I’m stupid but I’m not. He’s an incredible talent, his dedication is second to none and he’s not the finished article, he’s a work in progress,” says McGuigan, who has been delighted with the response of the public to Frampton’s clash with European super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez on February 9 at the Odyssey Arena.
“He's getting better all the time but he's a slow burner, the things he learns he learns slowly, he takes his time and I like that.
“It takes time to convince him... for example to throw a left hook to the body you have to make a commitment and that puts you in danger but it's still worth doing because when you pull it off you can really hurt your opponent.
“We're two fights away from a world title and if he beats Kiko Martinez the way I think he can then he could go straight for the world title... the Scott Quigg (WBA interim champion) fight is there but if he's not interested then we move on.
“Things will get much tougher for Carl, there will be much more of a forensic examination of his talent, his heart and strength and chin and all of those issues and that starts on February 9 at the Odyssey Arena.”
After breakfast in the Battersea coffee shop opposite the building site in this developing area of West London it is off to son Shane’s gym to witness Frampton sparring Irish welterweight Dean Byrne. While the Belfast man is currently his sole priority, Shane and Barry are keen to add to their stable of boxers.
“I did have two other guys that I managed but I handed them back their contracts because this is a serious business... Carl takes it seriously... I'm on the look-out for other boxers, I want to build the stable but I will choose very carefully who I take because they have to have the ability but they also have to have the right aptitude,” said McGuigan.
“This guy has it and I know that he lives the life. It’s a tough business but he’s a very smart guy and he knows what he has to do to get to where he wants to get to.”
The man Barry has entrusted with making sure that his diamond is polished to perfection just happens to be his son and the former champion knows that many eyebrows were raised and doubts aired about Shane’s capacity to bring Frampton through to boxing’s summit having had no experience as a professional fighter or coach.
“I was happy to hand Carl over to Shane because I watch him in the gym and I sit and watch fights with Shane and he analyses guys mistakes like that,” adds McGuigan with a snap of his fingers.
“We look at that things that I might pick up but maybe not jump out of the page at me, he can spot them very quickly... he's very disciplined, extremely knowledgable about periodised training and he's very calm.
“Here's the thing, boxing is first of all a skill, but you don't dive into that and lose all perspective of everything else around you. It’s a very complex sport, it's about skill but also about weight, doing the weight properly — being the leanest athlete you can be but not being too lean so you take away your strength and don't recover in time between weigh-in and fight time.
“The intricacies of that are really, really important and a lot of guys are good conditioners but they have no idea about boxing and some guys are great boxing coaches but have no idea about conditioning, about eating but Shane ticks all those boxes and what's more he understands nourishment and food better than anyone else I know.
“He will monitor everything Carl eats, they have a very good relationship. Carl lives with my boys and they're all good craic but Shane is a disciplinarian, meticulous about preparation, he's calm and cool and knows when to call it a day and also when Carl says he's tired Shane will push him on because he knows he has to.
“An invaluable point is this, Shane trained as a professional fighter. Even though he only fought amateur I trained him like a pro and I had a guy to help with the amateur skills... he understands boxing and he understands hard work and graft.”
While the sole focus is on getting the better of Martinez in 10 days time, McGuigan knows there will come a time when Frampton will have to walk away from the ring and McGuigan knows that is often the hardest challenge for any boxer.
“When I hung up the gloves I had no education, a bit of fame but I had an encyclopedic knowledge of boxing. I improved on my vocabulary and got into television, I worked for everybody ITV, Screensport, Sky...
“It was tough on my family, nothing can replace being in the ring. My wife Sandra was great because the family was left to her because I was travelling all over the country. It was very tough mentally, the travelling was hard on me and then as I watched them grow up.”
When that time comes for Frampton, McGuigan wants him to be ready: “My job is to get him as much money as I can and to make sure that he holds on to it and that he is lucid so he can enjoy it.”
Just then Frampton suggests from the ring that with Steve Collins coming back to fight Roy Jones maybe Barry could don the gloves against Sky commentator Jim Watt before Shane interjects: “Maybe you could finally get that fight with Azumah Nelson!”
McGuigan smiles, settles down to watch the spar and every twitch of his body as Frampton goes about his work just emphasises how a boxer may quit the ring but the ring never leaves them.
12 rounds with Barry
Q. Your favourite sportsman of all time
A. Ali, nobody compares, the greatest sportsman of all time.
Q. What do you most like about boxing?
A. The commitment that one shows, the travails and the effort that one must make to be successful.
Q. What do you most dislike about boxing?
A. When people are severely injured, it happens rarely but it is the most horrible thing, the tragedies and the consequences, ie Gerald McClellan and Michael Watson, enough said.
Q. Your best characteristic
A. I would say a pretty good personality, I'm good with people.
Q. Your worst characteristic
A. I suppose there are times when I'm negative, it would be great to get rid of things that creep into your mind, about life in general.
Q. Best moment of life
A. Coming down Royal Avenue and then down O'Connell Street after winning the World title, to see so many people was extraordinary — those were the two best moments of my life.
Q. Worst moment of your life
A My brother's suicide.
Q. Your earliest memory
A. I remember when we came from Millbrook in Clones onto the Diamond, my mother and father bought a grocery shop, I was only three and I remember where we had gone to because we had gone from a housing estate and I remember thinking where is this place, what is it and we'd only gone half a mile.
Q. How do you relax?
A. I know it sounds paradoxical but by training, I de-stress by training, I vent my spleen in the gym and bust my gut and that way I can receive complete|relaxation.
Q. Which five people throughout history would|you invite to a dinner?
A. Flann O'Brien, comical Irish writer, Abraham|Lincoln, James Joyce,|Norman Mailer and Ali, but he'd destroy the conversation because he's so exuberant.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
A. He was a decent guy, McGuigan was a good guy — that would be lovely.
Q. What's the meaning of life?
A. Doing your best to do the right thing.