One April evening in Dubai last spring, Carl Frampton found himself in a chair in the corner of a ring at Caesars Palace. He said to himself, “F*** me.” “It’s going to be a very difficult night.”
The miniature man-made peninsula on which the Northern Irishman fought is not steeped in the same boxing history as the eponymous Nevada, but it will be an important moment in the career of one of its most talented fighters. generation. In fact, you will see the end of that career.
Fifteen months after losing to Jamal Hearing, Frampton is content at a London airport, breathing less heavily as he speaks independent Telephonically. His voice is obviously more polished than during his post-fight speech, as he missed the opportunity to see his children grow up. His mind is also calmer.
On his decision to retire at the age of 34, Frampton says: “It wasn’t difficult at all. I kind of retired in the ring, but when I talked to the people closest to me who were in that fight, I knew I was going to retire. You obviously want to go out for a big win, but it was just a bit too far. It’s a really horrible feeling when you’re fighting a confident fight, but you’re sitting in a chair at the end of the first round and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a really tough night.’
It had already been a rough night for five and a half rounds before Angle Frampton saved their fighter, ending his hopes of leaving Dubai with the super featherweight title. The towel came as a star to come down in Frampton’s fighting career, ushering in a new phase in his life.
“It was emotional at the end,” says Frampton. “I was away from home, there weren’t many people around because of Covid and my wife and children went back to Belfast. it was difficult. I shed a few tears, but I looked at the end, looked away at the end of a perfect career…”
It was a 12-year career in which Frampton won bantamweight and super featherweight world titles, a career in which he combined unremarkable speed, ferocious power and great inner spirit to defeat Nonito Donner, Leo Santa Cruz, Hugo Cazares and Keiko. Martinez among others. Now 35, Frampton partially fills his time working for BT Sport, providing some of the most insightful analysis in the whole box.
“I think retirement has been busier than I thought it would be,” he says. “I thought I was going to spend a lot of time at home playing my thumb, but it was too flat to be honest. I’ve obviously got the new gig with BT, I’m doing small bits for different charities, and I’ve got a podcast. I try to balance it with my home life and what I wanted to do: Take time off and relax with my wife and children.”
Coming from a Protestant background, Frampton feared that his budding relationship with his current wife Christine, a Catholic, would be divisive in a city and country long divided.
“When we first got together in Belfast, I thought there might be friction, we might get a bit tough, and there might be people from where I’m going to have a problem – and vice versa,” says Frampton. But there was no real problem. On the street nobody had a problem with me, I had no family. On the internet… social media is a horrible place. You get the usual goofs who like to talk, but that’s to be expected in this day and age. It was something I was a little worried about, but I fell in love with a girl…”
Frampton has already fallen in love with boxing, but the sport can be a selfish partner, taking more from enthusiasts than it gives in return. Few in boxing have a balanced relationship with the sport, so Frampton encourages fighters to take advantage of opportunities to earn money while they can. However, he calls for more transparency from fighters, promoters and managers when it comes to sports washing, a practice in which countries host sporting events to distract from scandals, crimes and/or poor human rights records.
“I think it’s to dodge people who say, ‘We’re boxing in Saudi Arabia, we’re playing leaf golf there because we’re trying to promote our sport in the Middle East,'” says Frampton. “that it ox*** Really, it really is,” he spat, that calmness in his voice breaking for the first time in our conversation.
“I almost prefer the athletes, promoters and managers to say how it is; Just say you’re going there for the money. There is actually nothing wrong with that. We live in a sport where, I say, only 0.5 percent of boxers are able to live comfortably after their retirement. Not many people can afford to buy a house after having a professional boxing career. Golf is another story, but…you have to think of the hundreds of thousands of nomadic boxers who come close to fighting for titles.
“If people are really honest, I think others will accept it. Just say, “Look, the money was so good, that’s why we’re fighting in Saudi Arabia,” or “That’s why I’m playing in the LIV tournament.” But where do we draw the line? “I only want to compete in neutral countries that don’t have wars…” Every country in the world has its own problems. Where do you draw the line? “
It’s an important answer from a fighter who has drawn a line under his career in Dubai. Finally, after more than two decades of his commitment to boxing, Frampton is able to take on more of the sport than it has to offer.
Carl Frampton will be a keynote speaker at the Post-Games Conference, an event hosted by Beyond Sport UK on Tuesday 26 July. Ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, they will bring together 300 leaders from the local and international sports sector to explore, discuss and exchange ideas about the role of sport in tackling the UK’s most pressing social and sectoral issues. Frampton will be part of a panel discussing how athletes can use their platforms to make a difference in the wider community.