Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Carl Frampton: I want to be your new sporting hero

Taking it easy: Carl Frampton takes a break from training at Barry McGuigan’s London gym,
where the Belfast boxer is preparing for next week’s world title showdown with Kiko Martinez on the Titanic slipway. As this is as close to the canvas as he is planning to get!
Taking it easy: Carl Frampton takes a break from training at Barry McGuigan’s London gym, where the Belfast boxer is preparing for next week’s world title showdown with Kiko Martinez on the Titanic slipway. As this is as close to the canvas as he is planning to get!

Supreme balance is a quality found in the greatest of sportsmen but only to the few it seems is given the ability to reach a comparable equilibrium in the choppy waters of everyday life.

Think Best, Higgins, Gascoigne and in contrast Federer, Jordan and Messi. Step forward Carl Frampton... a humble warrior in a brutal, unforgiving sport with a sharp wit, concussive fists of fury and the desire to match.

Fire and ice, it seems, come together to form the family and fighting man Frampton, who loves a tear-up and with equal measure the opportunity to get away from it all with wife Christine and three-year-old daughter Carla. Everything it seems is in sync.

Watching him go to work on two sparring partners over 12 hard-paced rounds ahead of his battle with IBF World super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez at the Titanic Quarter or dismantling his last opponent, former world champion Hugo Cazares with poker-faced menace, stands in such contrast to the person outside the ropes whose mild-mannered charm has led 16,000 to buy tickets for what they believe will be the crowning of a new Northern Ireland sporting legend next Saturday night.

One of those who has sparred with the Jackal recently, American Casey Ramos, pinpointed his most potent ability as having "the balance to always hit you with a powerful shot" – but, when the gloves are laid down, wife Christine lets him know when the sink needs clearing or the bins put out.

So, come next Saturday evening, the switch will be flicked in Frampton's head as he prepares to leave the hotel for the purpose-built arena which will be his place of work. Fire will be met with fire.

"I'd like to think of myself as a nice guy and there's been opponents I've been quite friendly with but when the bell goes you want to hurt them, you want to knock them out – it doesn't matter who they are," says Frampton in a calm, straightforward matter-of-fact manner.

"It doesn't matter if they're your best mate. Like, Paddy Barnes is one of my best friends and we were very good friends even when we were fighting but when you get in the ring you want to knock them out, simple as that and it would be the same for him.

"Away from the ring I'm not a naturally aggressive person but then everything changes when they tell me it's time to fight. I really don't know what happens, I just change.

"I guess it's because I know that you have to be spiteful in the ring, you have to show no mercy. If you don't finish a guy anything can happen. A classic example of that was when Herol Graham was boxing the ears off Julian Jackson and, then, one punch from Jackson ended it.

"Then at the end of the fight you have respect because both of us are in a hard sport. After the fight I find that I calm down pretty quickly, I don't go mad like some guys after the fight for a few days. When I get back to the changing room, it's a case of job done and I'm back to being myself."

This week the expectation and the hyperbole will be akin to that which surrounded his manager Barry McGuigan in the 1980s when he was packing out the King's Hall for memorable duels with foes such as Jose Caba, Juan La Porte and Bernard Taylor.

But, while the majority will feel the stress and anxiety that goes with the territory of those involved in a big fight, Frampton will no doubt be his usual chilled-out self, even though he is acutely aware that success will place him on the highest pedestal in the history of Northern Ireland sport –alongside the likes of McGuigan, Best, Higgins et al.

"It will mean so much to call myself a world champion, which has been a dream of mine, to be one of the best in the world at what you do will be incredible," he adds.

"And it's not just for me but for everyone involved that have backed me from the start – that have shown confidence in me.

"To join the sporting greats of Northern Ireland would be amazing and you can dine out on that sort of stuff for the rest of your life...

"I was on the plane recently from Belfast to London and a joiner started talking to me and he was saying how he went to Barry's fights and he was talking about the Bernard Taylor fight in the King's Hall, the buzz about the town and he was saying that it was getting like that again now.

"People still talk about Barry's fights and that was 30 years ago, and there's not many like that, and in 15 years' time when I'm walking the streets if someone wants to come up and say 'I remember that night you beat Kiko Martinez down at the Titanic' that would be amazing.

"It's the same date as when Northern Ireland beat Spain in 2006, the night David Healy scored a hat-trick. I was in the house that night watching it with my dad going ballistic, I loved it. It was a brilliant night, I'd loved to have been there.

"I remember a party in the streets after it, it was same when we beat England. I remember we were 2-1 behind against Spain and I went into the kitchen to get a drink and heard my dad going mad because it was two each and I'm thinking we have a shot here for a draw and then Healy got the winner and the last one was a beezer – lobbing the keeper.

"I hope I can give the people a great night too, a night they'll always remember. To be up there with Alex Higgins, Rory McIlroy, George Best, all those guys... if I can get amongst them then happy days, that would be brilliant."

Victory would also mean his boxing career was heading for another level and the call of America would be louder than ever for Frampton.

"I'd love to box in the States two or three times, New York and Las Vegas would be great, but I'm very happy to be boxing in Belfast and everything that generates. The whole week leading up to the fight is amazing.

"I want to be boxing at home as much as possible but America may happen sooner rather than later and I think the Yanks will like me... there's a big fight there with Leo Santa Cruz and, of course, back home there is the fight with Scott Quigg. But, of course, I have to deal with Kiko first who is a very dangerous fighter.

"But Quigg is the one I want to fight more than anyone. It's a huge fight over here and there are some people who genuinely think Quigg is better than me.

"I desperately want to fight him but his team need to know that when I win this legitimate world title I am in the driving seat. I'm the draw, I'm the one who sells tickets, bringing the people to the fight and I'm the one with a real world title.

"I'd also love to fight the WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and I'd be on him from the start and let's see what he's like in a hard fight for six rounds – he's been on his backside before and these guys don't punch as hard as me, and that's the truth."

You sense the fire is rising through the ice, just as it will around 10pm next Saturday when Kiko will feel the flames licking around his World title belt.

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