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Carl Frampton is taking criticism on the chin...

By Steven Beacom

Carl Frampton was as honest as always. With a crestfallen look on his face and an apologetic tone, the disappointment was clear as he dissected his first professional fight in the United States.

And this, even though he had just retained his world title.

Fresh from a gruelling 12-round battle on Saturday in El Paso against promising young Mexican Alejandro González Jr, Frampton was asked to send a message to his supporters back home.

He replied like a man who had let his legion of fans down in Northern Ireland. He hadn't. He didn't. He doesn't.

Frampton's not only one of this country's finest sportsmen, he's a genuine bloke to boot and speaks from that big heart of his.

He wanted to knock out his opponent to start a new American adventure in style. There was no KO.

It's worth remembering though, for his sake and the rest of us, that he WON Saturday's fight on points and is STILL IBF world super-bantamweight champion.

That, of course, won't stop examinations of his latest contest, round by round, punch by punch. Nor should it.

Boxing experts are having their say, so too those who wouldn't know a jab from an uppercut.

It goes with the terrority Frampton is in now. In Northern Ireland he's become as big as Coronation Street, the subject of thousands of conversations in homes, offices, building sites and streets from Belfast to Ballinamallard.

And for the first time since becoming a household name here, the Jackal has suffered criticism in some quarters for his performance.

Admitting himself that it was far from convincing, being the victim of two knockdowns in the opening round was particularily concerning.

Carl and his team, including manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan, talked about having major problems making the weight for the fight. Offering another explanation, they spoke about the softness of the ring canvas which, according to them, hindered the Tigers Bay fighter's footwork, normally so sharp you would think he could star in Riverdance.

That brought this response from another boxing hero from this part of the world, former world champion Wayne McCullough, who watched the fight on television from his home in Vegas. "Excuses, excuses," tweeted the Pocket Rocket.

After McCullough was hit with a few counter punches and asked to expand, he typed: "He fought a nobody and struggled, pulling himself off the canvas twice against a non puncher and then made excuses."

Straight talking or a low blow, like the several Frampton received on Saturday from Gonzalez? When quizzed again, McCullough refused to back down.

Cork native Gary Hyde, the manager of Cuban star Guillermo Rigondeaux, the current WBA and WBO super-bantamweight world champion and talked about as a future opponent for Frampton, cut up even rougher with the McGuigans in his line of fire.

He stated: "Carl Frampton got the win but was unimpressive. Dropped twice in round one by a nobody. Carl had to dig deep to win and fair play to him. He's surrounded by control freaks and the only big-time experience his coach has is working Carl's fights.

"Carl is a little gem but his team are a bunch of clowns. Will Carl wait until it's too late to call the shots on his career??? Carl you got one career so you must make the most of it."

It is worth pointing out that Frampton opted for McGuigan to manage him rather than Hyde back in 2009 and also that one boxing promoter/manager having a go at another is as routine as Caral Ni Chuilin and Jim Allister going toe to toe in Stormont.

In boxing there can be more politics than in actual politics. It may be known as the noble art but it can be one dirty game.

Nevertheless Hyde's controversial comments got people talking, stirring up thoughts about possible splits in the camp to come.

Barry McGuigan, a legendary and hugely sporting figure in the UK and Ireland, made his own highly publicised parting from his former manager Barney Eastwood.

There is nothing to suggest, however, that any serious issues exist between Frampton and McGuigan. The bottom line is that while, obviously, Carl has been good for Barry, the former world featherweight champion has been good for Frampton too.

In guiding the north Belfast man to a world title McGuigan's enduring profile in boxing did his protege no harm whatsoever. Indeed it helped him a lot and can continue to do so if minds are focused once the dust has settled on Saturday's events.

Hyde's hook at Barry's son Shane will hurt the Clones Cyclone more than any 'control freak' jibe at himself.

True, Shane is still a novice compared to some in his profession, but he has been a strong influence on Frampton and with experience can only get better. In boxing there will always be discussions about boxers, trainers and who should manage who, but Frampton and the McGuigans are more powerful together than apart regardless of what Hyde says.

Now all parties must take stock, have a meeting to iron out the problems of El Paso, ensure they don't happen again and decide if a move up in weight really is in the best interests of the boxer.

They must also take criticism from the weekend on the chin, use it as inspiration and come out fighting even harder next time around, be that against Scott Quigg or someone else.

Nowhere near at his brilliant best, Carl had to show character and boxing smarts to get a testing job done in Texas.

Give him credit for that. And look to the future...if lessons are learnt from El Paso, Frampton can and will become a better fighter. There is still much for him to achieve.

Belfast Telegraph


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