Video: Carl Frampton spars with reporter David Kelly - let the pain begin
The moment had arrived, a chance to take on one of the best fighters in the world and the future world super-bantamweight champion. It seemed like a good idea at the time...
That was before I had witnessed Carl Frampton's dynamic work on the pads with coach Shane McGuigan.
It was 12 rounds of hi-octane work in McGuigan's London Gym with Frampton embossing into his mind a series of vicious combinations as he counts down to his WBC World super-bantamweight final eliminator with Mexican hard man Hugo Cazarez.
Those who stand 5ft 5' are not supposed to hit that hard, I pondered, knowing that I would be sharing the same ring with this ripped athlete whose body seems to be carved out of granite.
Fuelled by a strict caveman diet of meat and vegetables and a punishing strength and conditioning programme, the man in front of me is a machine, while I — energised by a fry-up and a cup of tea — am merely, er, a man.
No way out now, the call comes from the Belfast man's manager and former World featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, “Let's get a pair of gloves on David”.
Gloved up, I walk across the ring to intimidate my opponent, as they always do before the bell sounds for a big fight. For some reason it didn’t seem to be working, even with my best Mike Tyson snarl. Somebody had obviously given away my tactics.
If intimidation was going to work, then it was going to be purely down to my ring craft — oh dear — as Shane, acting as referee, brought us together. Final thoughts before the opening exchanges… glad I took that Imodium, some free root canal treatment may await me here and ah well, I’ve had a good life…
The bell goes and I make a good start —that first half second will live long in the memory as I stick out a decent left jab. Frampton is keeping his distance in the early stages, I feel positive and ready to attack with my right hand. Then reality came thudding home in the shape of the Machine’s right hand and everything went a little fuzzy momentarily.
Now I know how World champion Kiko Martinez felt when knocked out with that same fist 12 months earlier in the Odyssey Arena — well, sort of. What it must be like to feel the full force sends a shiver down the spine but no time for such thoughts as I try to land one punch, please just one!
Frampton comes straight at me and I try to move to give myself space to throw a right but something holds me back… yes that’s it, fear of what might be coming back at me in return.
But then feeling confident I see an opening and go the right hand again… BOOM! A left hook has me stumbling back and my liver apparently swimming in acid for the rest of the round. The Jackal has time to smile at the camera as I flail away in desperation.
Can three minutes really be this long? Suddenly I realise that it would be helpful to breathe. I’ve been biting so hard on my gumshield in concentration — or is that trepidation — that my lungs are now screaming for help.
“Throw the right hand, he’s wide open David,” cried cornerman for the day McGuigan snr. I took the advice with all the gusto I could summon and it landed, at least I think it did — Frampton curiously seemed unmoved.
Then a jab landed, success — now I’m on a roll.
Bang! The Frampton right hand lands so squarely on my forehead I feel I may be tattooed for life with leather.
The fuzziness returns and evaporates, so bring it on Jackal!
“You gotta work David!” implores former world champion McGuigan.
My mind says yes but the body is saying ‘catch yourself on’.
Surely the bell will come to my rescue, as my legs start to stiffen… but not before Frampton quickens his footwork and handspeed, leaves my mind in a spin and has some fun by landing two punches at the one time.
I don’t remember this ever happening in Rocky...
I gather myself together and try to land a body shot which has all the spite of a chocolate soufflé. Still, I have to keep going to the end, keep looking for that lucky punch.
I’m still looking...
“Time!” cries McGuigan.
I’ve gone the distance against a future world champion — not many of his opponents can say that.
Frampton gives me a smile and a nod of approval, I guess he knows he’ll never face anyone like me again.
The end had come to an unforgettable experience — and to my career in the ring.
I’ll be sticking to the day job from now on and probably appreciate even more just what it means for every novice, journeyman and champion to be standing in the heat of battle.
Belfast Telegraph Digital