Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Frampton's Final Push

Carl Frampton was a retired fighter. For two weeks after last year's grueling unanimous decision loss to Josh Warrington, Frampton, a former two-division titlist, thought he was done with boxing. But sitting at home with his family, that gnawing feeling started to take over. "I didn't want to end like that," he said. "I want to know what it feels like to be a champion again." So Carl readied himself for another push to the top. Aligned with a powerhouse team that includes MTK Global, Frank Warren and Bob Arum, Frampton wanted one more shot at the title. 

Frampton (26-2, 15 KOs) next fights on August 10th against Emmanuel Dominguez (26-8-2, 18 KOs) in Philadelphia (televised in the U.S. via ESPN+) and he has already been in town for two weeks as he finalizes his training camp. He met with local media this week at the Irish Center. Three bagpipers played prior to the start of the event, a nice welcoming touch for the boxer from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Photo by Adam Abramowitz/Saturday Night Boxing

With a win against Dominguez, Frampton will be in pole position for another shot at the featherweight title, but his potential future opponent is unclear at this time. The current WBO titleholder, Oscar Valdez, has signaled his desire to move up in weight. If that were to happen, Frampton could wind up facing uber-prospect Shakur Stevenson for the vacant title. And if the WBO route doesn't work out, there are other possibilities, including a rematch with Warrington, or perhaps a trilogy fight with Leo Santa Cruz.

But first thing's first. Frampton has a fight to win next week and he's been putting the finishing touches on a spirited camp at the Grays Ferry Boxing and Fitness Club with trainer Jamie Moore and chief sparring partners Aqib Fiaz, a Manchester-area boxer from Moore's stable, and Stephen Fulton, an impressive junior featherweight prospect from Philly (Fulton also sparred with Frampton in a previous camp).

At 32 and a veteran of the boxing scene, Carl understands the importance of the Dominguez fight. "At this stage of my career, if I lose my career is over." Frampton knows that he represents an enormous opportunity for Dominguez. And he's also aware that Dominguez has been in the ring with several notable fighters, such as current junior featherweight champ Emanuel Navarrete. 

For this camp, there have been no cutting corners. No cheat days. He was asked if he had a steak sandwich yet while in Philly and Carl responded with a laugh saying not yet, but that's the first thing on the menu Sunday morning after the fight. He asked the crowd if the famous "Pat's Steaks" was a good choice, of which the Philly Phaithful in attendance gave him a good-natured boo.

Frampton spoke with the assembled media for over 30 minutes and he's a natural talker. He has excelled when doing punditry work in England and he co-hosts a successful podcast with Chris Lloyd (TKO with Carl Frampton). During his remarks, he confirmed his desire to get into broadcasting after his career is over. 

During the free-ranging dialogue, Carl analyzed some of the best matchups in boxing, revealed his career highlights and opined on potential future opponents. He handled all of the questions, especially some pointed ones, with ease. He wouldn't take the bait and respond to Stevenson's recent trash talk about him, and he was respectful of past opponents such as Leo Santa Cruz, Kiko Martinez and Nonito Donaire (Donaire and Frampton have become friends and Donaire will be coming to Philly to support Frampton on fight night).

Frampton acknowledged the talent in the featherweight division, stopping to give credit to Santa Cruz, Valdez, Russell (although he wondered why he didn't fight more), Warrington and Stevenson. He knows that he'll have to be at his best to get another belt.  

For trainer Moore, this camp has been an opportunity to address some of the problems that occurred during the Warrington fight, a match so brutal that Frampton's wife vowed that she would never watch him fight live again. "The main problem was Carl's decision making in the first three rounds of the fight," said Moore (who was also on-hand at the media event). "Would Carl have stood and traded with Nonito Donaire in the center of the ring? Of course he wouldn't. He would’ve been a fool to do that with his power. He didn't respect Warrington's power enough. And that was a problem."

Frampton admitted that he was hurt several times in the Warrington fight. For this camp Frampton and Moore are emphasizing fundamental boxing, angles and footwork, the types of skills that could come in handy against Dominguez, or an aggressive pressure fighter, such as Valdez. Frampton illustrated in his title-winning effort against Santa Cruz and in a 122-lb. title defense against Scott Quigg that he certainly has the requisite skills to defeat top-level pressure fighters. But in his two losses (against Warrington and the rematch with Santa Cruz) he also showed that he could be lured into ill-advised firefights. 

Although everyone was all smiles at the media event, the underlying seriousness from the fighter and trainer was definitely present. They weren't in Philadelphia for the sightseeing; they want a title fight by the end of the year.  

Win or lose against Dominguez, Frampton's had a notable career. Along with Steve Collins, he's the only two-division belt holder from Ireland, and the only two-belt titlist from Northern Ireland. According to Frampton, his two most memorable moments were defeating Santa Cruz in New York, where over 2,500 fans crossed the Atlantic to support him (I was there, they were loud), and fighting at home to a sold out Windsor Park in Belfast. 

Frampton was asked about his legacy and his answer was perfect, "I want to be remembered as a legend in Irish sports. But I also want to be known as a decent guy, not an arsehole...or a dickhead." The room broke up in laughter.

Ultimately, the vibes were good. The positivity was abundant, but the reality of where Frampton is in his career was evident. He's now in the lose-or-go-home phase of his career. And as much as he loves his wife and kids, he's not ready to go home for good. Not just yet. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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