Already a Hall of Fame candidate as a boxer and a symbol of hope for so many outside the ring, Carl Frampton has earmarked 2020 as his most important year yet.
If and when he takes on America’s Jamel Herring for the WBO super-featherweight world title this summer, Belfast’s finest can become the first ever three-weight world champion from his island.
With news pending and his hands healing fast in the wake of operations, #MTKInsideAccess caught up with ‘The Jackal’ to discuss… well, just about everything.
#MTKInsideAccess: You’re on the cusp of sealing a fight that will put a fitting seal of achievement on a great career. How does your motivation now compare to when you were first starting out?
Frampton: When you have kids, it increases your motivation. You want to provide for them. They already have a very comfortable life but now I really want them to be proud. They’ll know their Dad was a two-weight world champion but I want them to know he was the only man on the whole island to win world titles in three different divisions. Because I’ll have done it against legitimate champions, I’d go down as not only one of Ireland’s best but one of the best from this whole group of islands.
I unified at super-bantamweight and then went up and beat a four-weight world champion in Leo Santa Cruz. Hopefully I beat Herring and hopefully I end up in the Hall of Fame. I’d like that. If you win three world titles, you have to be very close to it.
Of course, I’m naturally competitive and that’s always been there from when I was very young. There’s a bit of devil about most people at the top levels of sport because they’re worried about failure and being embarrassed. In this day and age particularly, it’s very easy to be criticised on social media.
Your family base seems to be a very strong one. Tell us about the impact your wife Christine has had on your career.
I was down in the dumps after the defeat to Josh Warrington and it was Christine who helped pull me out of it. I’m a sensible enough guy and it’s how sport goes but she really helps me when things don’t go right.
Christine is different from a lot of people in and around this sport in that she hates the limelight. We’ve been together for nearly 14 years and in all that time, I probably have fewer than 30 photographs of us together. These days, some people take that many in one hour and put them all on Instagram!
Christine was with me when I was skint. I was living off her student loan at one point. My parents helped out financially too. Christine just believed in me. She was there when nobody really gave a f*ck. She’s not one of those people who has married a boxer because she wants attention – she’s the opposite of that and I like that about her. She fits in with the people around me. She can be ‘one of the lads’… just a really good looking one.
On the social media issue and how it seems so important to some people these days, I worry about my kids growing up with it – especially my young daughter, Carla. Luckily, with Christine being her mother, there’s a great example being set when it comes to realising what’s really important in life.
What about the support of your parents? How great an influence have they had on this journey?
My Mum famously sits stone-faced watching all my fights and doesn’t show any emotion, but both her and my Dad have been great and invested a lot of time into what I wanted to do with my life.
We aren’t the kind of family to show our feelings too much. It’s just how it’s always been. I do more public displays of affection with Christine and my kids but I’ve never hugged my Dad in my life even though we’re best mates! I can’t hug him now – it’d be weird…
There’s a funny story about hugging my Mum, actually. I don’t actually ever remember hugging her before I fought Kiko Martinez for the world title at the Titanic in Belfast. I was walking to the ring and just before the steps, my Mum steps in front of me for a hug and I thought: ‘Is she for real? There are 90 countries watching this worldwide and she’s chosen now for our first hug.’ I gave her a quick and awkward hug. I remember getting in the ring afterwards and thinking that if I lose, I can blame it on my Mum throwing me off with that hug…
Actually, there’s another story which shows how weird the hugging thing is in my family. Me and my cousin were sitting there watching the first fight with Leo Santa Cruz on DVD and my Grandad, who is sadly no longer with us now, was watching with us. Anyway, at the end of the fight we saw McGuigan jump on my Grandad at ringside and hug him. My cousin teased my Grandad and my Grandad said: ‘I don’t hug men’ and walked out of the room! He didn’t come back either – he went to bed and wouldn’t speak to my cousin for a while afterwards.
Belfast sees you as a messenger of unity with your support for organisations such as the Council for Integrated Education Northern Ireland. What does your city mean to you?
I never set out to be ‘that’ person but if people want to see me like that, that’s fine. I honestly do care about it. I missed the height of The Troubles but Northern Ireland is already a much better place than it was when I was growing up. It was never a career decision to use the issues to raise my profile. I’m just who I am and hopefully people see that.
There are kids from both sides who won’t have mixed with kids from the other side until they go out into the world and get a job, so how is the situation meant to improve under the current education system? I think there only 10% of schools in Northern Ireland that are integrated. It annoys me.
It’s a bit of a cliché but I feel the motto is simple and it’s accurate: Treat everyone – EVERYONE – the way you wish to be treated yourself.
Obviously, I’m a boxer first and foremost and from a boxing standpoint, Belfast is in the best shape it’s ever been in. You could have so many people from our island fighting for world titles this year – Luke Keeler, Michael Conlan, Tommy McCarthy, James Tennyson, Jono Carroll, Anto Cacace and the list goes on.
Irish boxing is in a great, great place and Belfast is leading the charge.
How do you see your future beyond your own fighting career? Coaching? Punditry? Just the sofa?!
I like doing the punditry stuff. I don’t think I’m going to get into coaching because it’s too intensive. In some ways, it’s even more intensive than fighting. I’m already doing some punditry. I enjoy it and I’ve been told I’m not the worst, so maybe I’ll move into that more.
Training fighters takes too much time… and I’m terrible on the pads as well! I’d like to have a gym in Belfast, though. The idea is based on what my mate Tommy Coyle is doing in Hull. I’d like it to be an elite facility but with access for the whole community so you have normal people mixing with athletes.
On the coaching question, if young boxers want to come to me and ask advice, I’ll give them it. I always want to see young local boxers do well. I’ll always support fighters from where I’m from. I think other people should do it more – too many like to see others fail.
What I plan to do, primarily, is spend time with my family and support what Christine wants to do. She has a degree and so far it’s gone to waste. She’s sacrificed a lot to support me in my career so once I hang up the gloves, I’ll be looking to do the same for her.
News of Frampton’s return against Jamel Herring will be published in due course.