Belfast Telegraph

Having once had a father-son like relationship, it's becoming clear a KO blow has been dealt to Barry and Carl

By Ivan Little

It's the fight that no one wanted to see. The boxing partnership between Carl Frampton and Barry McGuigan was expected to go the distance.

But now reports say that the gloves are off between the two friends as the boxer prepares to deliver the knockout blow to his manager and sound the death knell on their once-perfect but now apparently rocky relationship.

Speculation has been rife lately that the former two-weight world champion is about to throw in the towel on his eight-year tie-up with the former world featherweight champion from Clones.

To the outside world, if not the one inside the ring, it has always seemed like a match made in heaven.

Cyclone's affiliation with the young boxing cub from Tiger's Bay was a whirlwind of a winner from the start.

The affable fighter from the hard-knock streets of north Belfast had signed with McGuigan as soon as he turned professional in 2009.

And the liaison never appeared to be on the ropes as the new kid on the boxing block took on board the sage advice from the old master who'd seen and won it all - well, almost all - in the ring.

This writer was locked up with Frampton in a Crumlin Road jail cell as part of a charity fundraiser a few years ago before he battled his way into the big time.

He made it clear that while McGuigan was encouraging him to reach for the sky in sporting terms, he was also keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

The similarities between the two men were striking, and not just in their stature.

Both of them drew their support from across the religious and sectarian barriers in Northern Ireland.

They united an all-too-often divided population behind them with their no-nonsense approach to boxing and took no nonsense from anyone who tried to make them play the orange or green card.

The fact that they were both married to wives from different religious faiths to them didn't go unnoticed, either.

Frampton was to say he felt like part of the McGuigan family.

And no wonder. He spent months with them in England training.

For as Barry doled out the wisdom and the wisecracks, his son Shane trained Carl and trained him hard.

McGuigan's wife Sandra has also been closely involved with Cyclone Promotions along with her other children.

Indeed one frequently asked question on the internet is if Frampton is related to the McGuigans.

He's not but the Jackal's combination with the McGuigans punched well above its weight.

The big pay days followed for the boxer and his management team as Belfast espoused its new sporting hero in a way that bordered on the fanatical and that McGuigan knew only too well from his heyday.

There was a TV documentary series and hundreds of fight fans packed hotel function rooms in Belfast for sweaty Press conferences and weigh-ins where the new comedy double act of Frampton and McGuigan played to the crowds with just the right jokes and jibes at the expense of their lonely opponents.

No one celebrated the ensuing wins harder than McGuigan, and the Frampton army supped pints with their hero after they followed him to New York for a title win over Mexican Leo Santa Cruz.

They later cried into their beer in Las Vegas after Carl followed in his manager's unfortunate footsteps in a big money clash.

Just as McGuigan had lost to another Cruz - Steve Cruz - at Caesars Palace in 1986, Frampton was beaten in his rematch with Santa Cruz in Vegas seven months ago.

It was Carl's first professional defeat and insiders say that's when the cracks started to show in his association with his mentor.

However, if things were creaking behind the scenes, it wasn't long before the rift started to widen in public.

A check at Companies House shows that Frampton resigned as a director of Cyclone Promotions on Friday, July 21, just eight days before he was scheduled to fight Andres Gutierrez at the SSE Arena in a homecoming fight in Belfast.

No explanation was offered on either side but it didn't take the pugilistic expertise of a Steve Bunce to smell a rat.

And worse was to come.

Frampton failed to make the weight for the Gutierrez scrap.

He was one pound overweight and the fight, which was scheduled to be a WBC featherweight title eliminator for Frampton, would no longer hold this stipulation for the Jackal.

But stranger things were about to unfold as word filtered through that the Mexican couldn't fight because he had slipped in the shower.

That didn't wash with sceptics, but the fighter's bruised and battered fizzog left little room for doubt as he gave a hastily-arranged late night news conference looking decidedly bloody and bowed.

And body language experts had a field day as McGuigan and Frampton talked to the Press too. They may have been beside each other but it was clear they were miles apart.

Adding grist to the already tense mill this week - and perhaps a clue - former Ulster boxing champion, Dave 'Boy' McAuley expressed surprise that Frampton's weight hadn't been more closely monitored in the run-up to the Gutierrez fight.

There's been an odd silence from Frampton and Cyclone.

McGuigan, who is on record as saying that he tries to learn two new words from the dictionary every day, may have had to look up 'irreconcilable differences' recently, but he may already have got the drift from the man who he has said had been his life since 2009.

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