By Terence Dooley
Belfast’s Carl Frampton, 16-0 (11), made plenty of headlines last week when the 26-year-old Super bantamweight contender crossed the promotional divide, leaving Matchroom Sports and Sky TV to hook up with Frank Warren and BoxNation.
Frampton will appear on Warren’s July 20th bill at London’s Wembley Arena, but will head over to Ireland for his following few fights, which will take place under the Cyclone Promotions banner.
Barry McGuigan manages Frampton; the “Clones Cyclone” will promote the Irish shows alongside his fighter, this was the main bone of contention that led to the split with Matchroom. The former world featherweight champion told me that Warren’s greater financial offer coupled with promotional autonomy over in Ireland were key factors in their decision to defect.
“That factored into it, definitely, and also that Sky didn’t make Carl a priority,” said McGuigan when speaking to Boxingscene. “Neither did Hearn. It was just a much better offer from BoxNation.”
“I don’t like to say it, but it is true that if you’re not a mainland fighter then you don’t get as much credit as everyone else,” said Frampton. “It was good exposure fighting on Sky TV, but after my fights it just went dead for months. There were guys on there being promoted constantly on Ringside. If you look at the shows on Sky, you’d look at ringside and the fighters on the front row, and you wouldn’t see me front row at a fight — I was overlooked. It was unfair, I am knocking on the door of a world title and the atmosphere created in Belfast for the [European title] fight with [Kiko] Martinez [W TKO 9 at the Odyssey Arena in February] was second to none.”
There was also the issue of the production costs involved in putting on regular shows in Belfast. Sky’s Adam Smith recently told David Kelly of Sunday Life that: ‘[T]he production costs do really escalate and I said to Eddie (Hearn) I like it a lot but we've got to have him in really good fights and we've got to have that promise of a big, big crowd each time because that looks fantastic on television.’
Well, the crowds are in place — Frampton can shift a ticket or two — so, for McGuigan, it is not even a debatable point. He said: “They were reluctant to put on the shows in Ireland because they said the costs were prohibitive. That was a major factor for me because Carl’s fan base is there.
“I don’t know how they value the costs over an atmosphere like that. It is something you can’t afford not to have, but that’s my take on it. He is a great ticket seller, great to watch with knockout power in either hand, and as far as I’m concerned it is their (Sky’s) loss. We’re very excited to be with BoxNation and to give Carl the type of attention he deserves. We are looking at the next fight in London, with the opponent to be named very soon, then a fight in Belfast in October and another one in the early part of next year. It is going to be a big year for him.”
The argument that McGuigan has opened himself to accusations of a conflict of interests due to his capacity as manager and promoter also proved wide of the mark. Frampton has a key role in the promotional company; he is in charge of his own destiny and now has the level of sovereignty generally reserved for established world title-holders.
“Just so you understand, we’re on Frank’s show on July 20th, but we entirely own the promotions over in Ireland,” explained McGuigan. “So we’re not co-promoting, we are promoting, and that’s for three shows between now and the end of the deal. We’re going to be steering our own ship over in Ireland. Doing our own promotions means that Carl will get his purse and also a piece of the profits.”
“Things are going to plan,” explained Frampton. “People seem to be confused with the situation at the minute. I’m fighting on a Frank Warren promotion, but we will promote the next fights as a team in Belfast. It is a great situation to be in, really exciting.
“I’m doing what’s best for me and my family. This is great for me financially — it is five times better than what we’ve been offered before. This next card I’m boxing on will be more rewarding for me than boxing on Luke Campbell’s undercard in Hull (in July). It is just a great deal all round. But Barry got a lot of stick — it is not fair. People weren’t reading what was being written, they were just skimming over things, and were missing the main parts.
“I’m in control of my own destiny. I don’t want to compare myself to Floyd Mayweather or the Klitschkos, but those guys promote themselves. Amir Khan does it as well, so why shouldn’t I do it? I don’t think it will be more of a weight on my shoulders, I’ve always been consulted about everything.”
“I don’t want it to sound like everything’s all about money, but it plays a big part in everyone’s life,” he added. “Put it this way, you’re doing your job right now. If another company came and offered you five times what you’re getting then you’d take it. It is the exact same situation for me in boxing. I sell tickets in Belfast, and that’s the bottom-line.”
“He’s a super talent, loved in Ireland and there’s so many great fighters over there who aren’t getting the exposure,” said McGuigan. “We’re happy to work with all these up-and-coming kids and would like to help resurrect Paul McCloskey’s career as well. The interest in the television, print and other media is ten times what they get over here (in the U.K.). Boxing’s more and more marginalised in the U.K.; it’s a big deal over there.”
Indeed, Frampton could be to Belfast what Ricky Hatton was to Manchester. Hatton came through with Anthony Farnell and Michael Gomez before adopting the mantle of the nation’s biggest ticket seller.
“It was the same for me when I was coming up the ranks and Paul [McCloskey] was headlining shows in Belfast with me on the undercards, which was great for me and is what I want to do for other Irish fighters,” said Frampton.
“I’m convinced that he can be every bit as popular as I was and as Ricky was in Manchester, and I know that Ricky’s a big fan of his,” stated McGuigan.
McGuigan’s working relationship with Warren stretches back to 1988, when the former world champion hooked up with the new promoter on the block for a comeback. Persuading McGuigan to join him over at ITV was a major coup and real statement of intent from Warren. Decades on — and very much like his canny boxing counterpart Bernard Hopkins — Warren’s still capable of reproducing his prime form.
“I go back a long time with Frank,” said McGuigan. “Let’s not forget that this guy has been producing British, European and world champions for decades. Frank is a success — he knows what he is doing. What I like about Frank is that he’s willing to take risks. It is very exciting that Frank also has the option of putting on shows at The Copper Box in East London.”
Northern Ireland is currently experiencing a tourism boom due to the popularity of the HBO TV show Game Of Thrones, which is filmed primarily in Paint Hall Studios in Belfast and the rural areas of Northern Ireland. This increased footfall could have a knock on effect if Frampton strikes while the Isle is hot.
“People want to see the exciting development of Frampton, so come over and watch him with a cheap flight and book into a hotel,” enthused McGuigan. “It is the most hospitable city, and the government are behind new ideas and initiatives. The boxing fans will have such a brilliant time over there. It is a proper boxing city with about 50 boxing clubs and discerning fans.
“It’s just great news for Northern and Southern Ireland fans. Carl was on the [IABA’s] Elite team for years, so there’s support in Dublin and across the country. TV3, BBC1 Northern Ireland, they’re all big fans. We know the journalists personally, they’re part of the journey.
It’s not just a question of Ireland and the U.K., either — McGuigan revealed that Frampton’s star is on the rise across the Atlantic. “There’s big interest in America as well,” he said. “We’ve heard from Golden Boy’s [matchmaker] Robert Diaz, who said they’d like to work with us, so we have that as well over in America. Al Haymon has shown an interest.
“BoxNation will do their normal build-ups, but we’re also working on a documentary as well,” he revealed. “Carl’s a lovely young man. He is a pleasure to work with because he’s so calm yet self-assured and conscious, but without being cocky. The world’s full of deceit, full of guys who blow their own trumpets — he just goes out and can really fight. I think he’ll be a superstar in America. He’ll bring in the expat British fans and also the Irish fans as well. He’s a Protestant lad who is going to marry a Catholic girl. Carl is the epitome of the shared future.”
Ironically, McGuigan did the same thing when marrying his wife, Sandra, at the height of The Troubles. His own ability to unite the country through boxing gave birth to a popular saying on both sides of the divide: “Leave the fighting to McGuigan”, which is the title of an official biography of McGuigan written by Jim Sheridan and released in 1985. The first edition culminated in a memorable account his 15-round decision win over Eusebio Pedroza in front of 26,000 adoring fans at QPR’s Loftus Road Stadium. A revised edition hit the shelves in June 1986; McGuigan lost his title by decision to Steve Cruz under the Las Vegas sun that very same month. How quickly things can change in this game.
Golden Boy recently flexed their muscles by tabling a bid of $526,000 for the rights to stage Victor Terrazas’ mandatory WBC Super bantamweight title defence against Leo Santa Cruz. Frampton is currently ranked number seven by both the WBA and the WBC, although he could be bumped up to six by the WBA should they drop Cruz from his current #4 position; he is also number three with the IBF, the number two slot is vacant.
Therefore the clout provided by his rankings plus hometown and promotional support could be a major factor when it comes to tempting a world titlist over to Ireland, especially if Framton continues to work the IBF’s Inter-Continental title en route to an eliminator for a tilt at Colombia’s IBF titlist Jonathan Romero.
“Yeah, definitely,” said Frampton. “The governing bodies will be happy to stage a show in Belfast because of the atmosphere. I want to be fighting for it (the world title) soon. If the opportunity comes to fight for the title in October then I’d snap it up with both hands. That’s the objective and priority for me. I want to win it then defend it plenty of times."
As for his former outfit, Matchroom have now inked a deal with Scott Quigg, Frampton’s chief domestic rival. “It didn’t surprise me, no,” said McGuigan. “I’m not disappointed at all. We’re not looking back. We have no animosity with Matchroom or Eddie, let them do their thing and we’ll do ours — let time be the judge.”
“We knew it was going to happen before we left Matchroom,” said Frampton. “Eddie said the only reason they would sign Scott Quigg would be to make the fight with me. But the European Union has apparently just nominated the fight for purse bids. If they want it let them bid for it and show how much they want it.”
“We’d love a Quigg-Frampton fight, no doubt about it,” reiterated McGuigan. “World titles or not, we’d have it whenever it’s available. I think [Quigg’s trainer] Joe Gallagher knows the score. I’m not so sure that he’s keen. I don’t want to start another Twitter brawl, but Gallagher knows. He knows.”
Frampton also had a message. He said: “I’ve just seen an interview with Joe, who made some crazy statement that he’d put a pound on the table, come down to the gym with Quigg and get it on wearing 8oz gloves, or whatever we want. He can keep his pound, Scott can wear the 8oz gloves and I’ll wear 14oz, as long as he doesn’t wear that crash helmet he wears when he’s sparring. We’ll sort the men out from the boys.
“Let’s see how keen they are to go through the European title route. Fingers crossed it happens sooner rather than later. I like Scott, I’ve spoken to him a couple of times and know he wants the fight, let’s see if the men behind him who make the decisions really want it.”
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