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Claims Frampton was kept 'under lock and key' at height of career 'nonsense', McGuigan claims

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Barry McGuigan arrives at Belfast High Court on Tuesday.

Barry McGuigan arrives at Belfast High Court on Tuesday.

Barry McGuigan arrives at Belfast High Court on Tuesday.

Boxing manager Barry McGuigan on Tuesday branded High Court claims that he had Carl Frampton tied to a so-called slave contract as "nonsense".

Mr McGuigan rejected allegations that the fighter was under "lock and key" at the height of his career to stop him from exploring other opportunities.

He also denied manipulating figures to declare a loss from Mr Frampton's world title contests staged in Belfast.

He insisted: "We never tried to pull the wool over Carl Frampton's eyes, ever."

The two sports stars are locked in a legal battle over the acrimonious ending of their partnership in 2017.

Mr Frampton, 33, is suing his ex-manager and Cyclone Promotions for alleged withheld earnings of up to £6m.

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Former boxing world champion Carl Frampton and his wife Christine arrive at Belfast High Court.

Former boxing world champion Carl Frampton and his wife Christine arrive at Belfast High Court.

Former boxing world champion Carl Frampton and his wife Christine arrive at Belfast High Court.

In a counter-suit, Mr McGuigan is claiming against the Belfast-born boxer for breach of contract.

Both men deny the respective allegations against them.

As his cross-examination continued on day twelve of the case, Mr McGuigan was pressed on an International Promotional Agreement (IPA) signed in 2015.

The court heard the deal involved the rights to Mr Frampton's fights for three years, and could potentially be extended by nearly two more years.

According to counsel for the boxer, Gavin Millar QC, a clause prohibited his client from any other promotional contracts.

"It's lock and key, isn't it?" he suggested.

"You might as well have put the handcuffs on him."

Mr McGuigan insisted the arrangement provided the "flexibility" for the boxer to work with other promoters.

"He got the very best fights available to him and he got the best money," he said.

But the barrister cited a term Mr McGuigan used in his memoir about an arrangement from his own boxing days.

"It is a slave contract, isn't it Mr McGuigan?" he asked.

Rejecting the characterisation, Mr McGuigan replied: "That's a nonsense comment if you look at what happened with his career.

"Look at the opportunities he had, look at the success he had and the amount of money he made, that is a ridiculous comment."

It was put him that at that point in Mr Frampton's career, having just won a world title, he could have "tested the market" for promotional opportunities.

Again, however, Mr McGuigan described the suggestion as "ridiculous" and pointed to how he guided the boxer.

"He got the very best fights out there in the super-bantamweight division, avoided the danger men and got wonderful opportunities and made lots of money.

"I don't know how I could have handled his career better, I really don't."

He was told that it would would have been in the boxer's interests to see what other deals were on offer.

"(The IPA) copper-bottom guaranteed cast-iron rights over the rest of his career for nearly five years," Mr Millar submitted.

He suggested the boxer might have been tempted by a "bigger, better promoter", and that the manager wanted to prevent that happening.

"It worked both ways," Mr McGuigan answered.

"Obviously we gave him the best opportunity, but I'm not sitting here and saying we didn't want to be protected ourselves given the efforts we put in too."

When it was put to him that his son Blain was named promoter to avoid any questions about a potential conflict of interests, he responded: "I disagree, there was no conflict, we got him the very best opportunities and he got the best results. That's it."

Ticket sales, purse fees and sponsorship arrangements for some of the boxer's big hometown shows in Belfast also came under scrutiny.

In September 2014 Mr Frampton defeated Kiko Martinez in front of a crowd of up to 16,000 at Belfast's Titanic Quarter to take the IBF world super-bantamweight title.

The court heard tickets worth just over £1m in total were available for the fight, excluding 855 complimentary seats provided to Cyclone Promotions.

Sales at the venue were said to have been £485,000, with the company having £557,000 worth of the tickets.

Mr McGuigan repeatedly stated that he didn't deal with the financial side of the business, focusing instead on looking after his fighters in the gym.

"I'm going to have to sound like a broken record, but that was not my domain," he said.

Referring to figures given for the contest, Mr Millar said a loss of £120,000 was reported on declared income of £1.3m.

The loss was attributed to figures given for sales and expenses, and a refusal to allocated £333,000 as sponsorship, the court heard.

"You manipulated the figures to make it look like this fight was loss-making, when in fact it wasn't." the barrister said.

Mr McGuigan replied: "No, we didn't manipulate the figures, no."

When told there are no contemporaneous accounting documents for the fight, he said: "I can't help you with that, you may ask the accountants."

Up to 12 private sector businesses were involved in sponsoring the show, the court was told, but only one paid money.

"We tried very hard, we did everything we could to get sponsorship, but it's very difficult to come by these days, it's just nigh-on impossible unless you're Anthony Joshua," Mr McGuigan said.

It was then put to him: "Your evidence on this is not true, and you did receive sponsorship income, and you're just trying to keep it out of the accounting for this fight for the purposes of these proceedings."

But Mr McGuigan maintained: "That is not true."

The hearing continues.

Belfast Telegraph