By Leonard Gunning
Roman leader Julius Cesar triumphantly exclaimed “veni, vidi, vici” after he vanquished Pharnaces II following a failed coup in 47 BC and now over 2,000 years later the hendiatris has become the maxim of exciting heavy handed Belfast prospect Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton, who took time out from training to talk to BoxingScene.com before engaging in a taste of top class sparring with British super bantamweight champion Jason Booth.
Enjoying the all facilities available at the newly refurbished Kevin Maree Gym and Fitness Centre, which sits in the tranquil surroundings of the Stirk House Hotel outside Gisburn, Lancashire, Frampton outlined his motives for crossing the Irish Sea and his plans for what is sure to be a glittering career.
“I’m over (from Belfast) for a few days to do a bit of training with Kevin Maree and to get a few rounds of sparring under my belt with some good opposition including Jason Booth, who for me is the best super bantamweight in Britain” explained the dynamic two weight Irish amateur champion.
“I was down in Karl Ince’s Gym in Bolton yesterday and sparred light welterweight Stuart Singleton and tomorrow I will head down to Nottingham for a few more rounds with Booth.”
The Barry McGuigan-managed, concussive punching battler has come a long way since he first gloved up for a competitive bout at Crusaders F.C. Social Club on the Shore Road, Belfast, where he coincidentally also had his final fight as an amateur fight.
“I was only 7 and had oversized gloves which were up to my elbows”, recalled Frampton, “the head guard was too big and Gerry Storey remembers me having to get lifted into the ring because I couldn’t reach the apron.”
It wasn’t long before Frampton was earning honours on the national and international stage in an amateur career that ran to 130 fights with over 110 victories. By the time Carl had brought the 2009 Irish senior amateur featherweight title back to the Midland Boxing Club following a titanic battle with longstanding adversary David Oliver Joyce, trainer Billy McKee had already steered the Tigers Bay knockout artist to Irish senior flyweight title in 2005 and a silver medal at the 2007 European Union championships in Dublin.
Despite the glittering array of honours accumulated in the unpaid ranks, Frampton’s heart was not set in vested pursuits and the time had come for Carl to turn over.
“I was with Billy McKee in the Midland BC from the very start and I was there all my amateur days but they are strictly an amateur club,” Frampto admitted. “Billy didn’t really want me turning pro but I always wanted to be a professional and win titles. So I then shipped to Gerry Storey at the Holy Family BC, thankfully Billy and Gerry have a good relationship and I am still down in the Midland as much as I can.”
It wasn’t long before the offers to sign Carl came flooding in. “After winning the Irish title I won a tournament in Turkey and got a load of phone calls from a number of promoters, I said to myself, ‘Forget the Commonwealth Games, I have to strike whilst the iron is hot.’ Barry [McGuigan] was genuine and I knew he would look after me and wasn’t just after the money. He is always on the phone to me and I would say he’s more like a friend to me than manager; he believes I can be a world champion and he wants to help me get there so it was an easy decision in the end.”
McGuigan, the legendary Irish featherweight Hall of Famer who won the WBA strap in an epic battle with Panamanian Eusebio Pedroza in 1985, was reciprocated with glowing comments in regards to his compact power punching protégé.
“I saw him box in the EU championships in Dublin where he took silver,” revealed McGuigan. “I liked his style and said I’d keep an eye on him and did a bit of research into what he had done prior. I just thought he would be perfectly suited to the pro game, the more I watched him the more I believed it.
“Back then he was in the High Performance Team [Irish amateur elite set up] for a couple of years but it would be a waste him staying in the amateurs because he is 22 now and the time was right. The smaller guys age quicker and as he gets old it would be harder to convert him to the proper pro style.”
The ‘Clones Cyclone’ continued: “He has brilliant boxing ability and I don’t want him to lose that – he can switch it on or he can switch it off. He can box defensively and he can counter. He can prowl, put you under pressure and force you to make mistakes. It’s the subtle changes than can make the difference. He is going to be an outstanding pro, I just know he has class.”
The boxing scene in Ulster is riding the crest of a wave with Martin Lindsay holding the British featherweight strap, Andy Murray claiming the EU lightweight title, Brian Magee preparing for a shot at the European super middleweight belt and Paul McCloskey on the verge of a world title tilt and Frampton aims to be part of the resurgence in the province which has seen the professional discipline emerge from the shadows of its dominant brother, the amateur code.
“My Granddad used to go to all the big fights in the Ulster Hall on a Friday back in the heyday and he used to tell me stories about those nights, so I’d love to be part of bringing all that back to Belfast,” enthused Frampton.
Frampton made his professional debut against unheralded Sandor Szinavel in June 2009 and later that year brought his record to 3-0 (2) in his first taste of a domestic big fight night when he earned a second round stoppage over another Hungarian southpaw journeyman Ignac Kassai on the undercard of the McCloskey-Rasilla contest in Magherafelt.
The squat muscular novice is as eager to collect some trinkets along the way. “I will hopefully have a total of 10 fights by the end of the year, then fight for a Celtic title and then go for a British or Irish title. I am happy to just stick to the boxing and let Barry pick the fights, maybe I’ll face Paulie Hyland in the future but if he vacates [the Irish title] then maybe Eugene Heagney or Marc Callaghan,” declared Frampton.
“I also really want to get my hands on the Lonsdale belt, it’s a beautiful looking belt and I would love to win it and keep it. I have seen Hugh Russell’s old belt, it’s solid gold and was really impressive.”
Whilst his burning ambition and desire to progress is obvious to see, Frampton is also an intelligent and patient personality; he is aware that the correct foundations need to be developed before he can move up the ladder. With that in mind he is happy to travel away from his comfortable Dunmurray home, leaving behind his new fiancée and pet dog to pit his talents against Britain’s finest in his weight class.
Travelling to Nottingham from his temporary Lancashire base, Frampton was delayed by traffic, inclement weather and the residue of the January snows, which adorned the highest points of the Peak District. Unperturbed, the Belfast box puncher readied himself in the car and upon arrival rushed into the Majestik Gym situated at the rear of the Hyson Green Community Centre to be greeted by his manager, assembled media, BBC Northern Ireland TV crew and Jason Booth, who was pacing the ring in eager anticipation.
With Booth, who is preparing to defend his British super bantamweight title against Matthew Marsh at Nottingham’s Harvey Hadden Leisure Centre in February, on a tight schedule there was no time for Frampton to warm up and the fighters both quickly got down to the business at hand. The first three rounds were contested keenly and at a brisk pace with the experienced Booth showing good footwork, which left Frampton off balance on occasions. More slippery than an M.P. submitting an expenses claim in a barrel of chip fat, Booth zipped around the ring clipping Frampton from unorthodox angles but the champion didn’t appear to wish to commit fully to landing flush full bodied shot on his younger foe despite the pressure that Frampton was exerting on the Nottingham fan favourite.
Booth then increased the pace of combat in the forth stanza and landed some heavy shots, with Frampton being only to happy to reciprocate and the Northern Irishman revelled in the close counter exchanges when he displayed his natural power by reddening Booth’s ribs with a number of vicious left hooks.
Booth then landed a meaty left to Frampton’s temple and appeared almost apologetic until he observed that Frampton’s response was merely a rye smile. At this point ‘2 Smooth’ realised that he was not in there with a nervous novice. The pair became more committed for the remainder of the fourth round and the final two cantos were contested with gusto with each landing flurries of obdurate body shots as Frampton grew in confidence.
A clearly impressed Booth commented that, “I’ve known there was a spar planned for about a week and a half and I was looking forward to it when I heard that Barry [McGuigan] was coming and it was an honour to meet him but I didn’t know anything about the kid [Frampton] before today, nothing!”, before quipping, “I wouldn’t have turned up if I had (known), but I couldn’t say no to a spar, you know what I am like.
“I was in there with a very good kid, he made me work hard, harder than any of my other sparring partners. He had the most class and was the best pick out of the three spars I’ve had in this camp. He has the all round qualities like the body shots etc and I had to be careful.
“He reminds me of a Miguel Cotto type fighter, I got into a pretty fast gear in there and he was there all the way and made me work hard because if I didn’t work hard he was going to take me to pieces because he is a good lad!”
McGuigan, satisfied with the days sparring added that Carl: “Did 6 rounds and gave as good as he got, I know Jason said he hurt him and he thinks he is an awesome talent, he’s the best kid he has sparred and he’s sparred a load of guys. Carl is not just a good puncher but he has a great chin, but I don’t need him to start proving that, he has so much potential and that has been reaffirmed in today’s spar.”
McGuigan continued: “Gerry Storey is doing a great job with him over there (Belfast) and Carl has known Gerry a long time and is settled there but the good thing is that travelling doesn’t bother him. Changes can sometimes spook fighters but it doesn’t do it to him he is just nice and calm and cool and he gets on with the job.”
McGuigan indicated that he wants to continue ‘The Jackal’s’ steady progression through 2010. “The short term plan is to get him out and keep him busy. I would like to think that we would be on the verge of a Celtic title fight by the end of the year and we are going to put that on at home,” declared McGuigan.
The next outing for Frampton is likely to be on the undercard of Lenny Daws tussle with Jason Cook for the British light welterweight title at the York Hall, London in February and then a return to Northern Ireland in March.