Carl Frampton interview: “In 20, 30 years' time I don’t want people to forget who I was”

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Leo Santa Cruz v Carl Frampton
Frampton is Northern Ireland's first two-weight champion (Source: Getty)

In beating Leo Santa Cruz to become the featherweight champion of the world last month, Carl Frampton reclaimed the belt won by mentor, manager and fellow countryman Barry McGuigan in a now-legendary battle with Eusebio Pedroza 31 years ago.

McGuigan’s achievement earned him the 1985 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, yet in a golden year for Great Britain at the Olympics, his protege is unlikely to repeat that particular feat.

Frampton’s coronation as Northern Ireland’s first two-weight champion in New York was witnessed in Britain only by red-eyed die-hards prepared to stay up past 4am and subscribed to the specialist Box Nation TV channel.

But it was a scrap that deserved a prime-time audience. The two fighters landed a combined 497 punches on each other over 12 explosive rounds. It was the more composed Frampton who prevailed.

The 29-year-old is now keen to bring the entertainment back home with a rematch on British shores. He recognises that, in an age of pay-per-view, he may never reach the masses like McGuigan, but wants to make memories for the fans he picks up along the way.

“That’s important for me, to be involved in exciting fights,” Frampton told City A.M.

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“The Santa Cruz fight was a hell of a fight and I think people will remember it for a very long time. I want to be involved in fights like that from here on in until my career is over.

“Barry McGuigan fought Pedroza 31 years ago and people still talk about that fight. It was an amazing fight, and I think something like 19m people watched it on terrestrial TV.

“You’re never going to get that these days — that’s just the business and the way things have gone — but I would like people to remember what I’ve done for boxing.”

British boxing may no longer boast the huge audiences who tuned in to watch the likes of McGuigan, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank in the late 80s and early 90s, yet fuelled by a flurry of new champions such as Anthony Joshua, Kell Brook, James DeGale, Anthony Crolla and potential future Frampton opponent Lee Selby, the sport is slowly seizing back the spotlight.

While that might provide the perfect platform for Frampton to etch his name in history — the boxer is now considering a charge for a third world title at a third different weight class — he is sceptical about the credentials of some of contemporaries.

Joshua, Brook, DeGale, Crolla and Selby are all members of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing stable, which enjoys exclusive access to Sky Sports’ huge audiences and — to some critics — hype machine.

“There are some good fighters, some of the Sky guys,” says Frampton. “But there’s a lot of fighters fighting guys with inflated records. It looks good and to the casual fan it’s unbelievable but the real boxing fans know what it’s really about.

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“There’s so many world titles floating around now. You talk about 14 world champions in the UK. I wouldn’t say there are 14 legitimate champions. But I suppose it’s good for boxing in a way: it’s getting a lot of headlines, a lot of coverage in the papers and on local news stations."

Before stepping up to featherweight to fight Santa Cruz, Frampton took the WBA super-bantamweight title from Matchroom’s Scott Quigg. The achievement was impressive but the fight itself flattered to deceive following weeks of publicity.

“I genuinely believed that he [Quigg] was a massive Sky TV hype job. I didn’t really have to get out of first gear to win that fight,” says Frampton.

“It could have been a good fight but he didn’t want to fight for six or seven rounds. And it takes two to tango.”

For his remaining years in the ring, he insists that he wants “to keep pushing, to be beating big names, to pick up new titles” and avoid fights that make a lot of noise but few memories.

He has the team and connections to make it happen. McGuigan’s support reaches the spiritual level. “He doesn’t let me know but I know that he goes and prays with these nuns that I come home safely. I don’t think there’s another manager in the world that would do that," he confides.

A deal with notoriously elusive Floyd Mayweather Jr adviser and Harvard MBA graduate Al Haymon, meanwhile, has paired him with arguably the most powerful man in boxing.

“It’s been great,” says Frampton. “It’s a hard business and a hard sport so it’s important the fighters get supported. And if you’re linked with Al Haymon then you’re going to be well rewarded.

“He’s private, he goes about his own business, he doesn’t want to tell the whole world about it. He’s happy to pay his fighters handsomely.”

Ask Frampton what motivates him to keep going, however, and it’s not the prospect of big paydays but emulating his mentor McGuigan’s achievements. He concludes: “In 20, 30 years' time I don’t want people to forget who Carl Frampton was.”