SO LONG, CHAMP... IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE
By Frank Warren
WHEN IT CAME to the final reckoning, it was just a fight and a weight too far for Carl Frampton in his bid to make history for his country on Saturday night.
Father Time catches up with us all at some point and Carl can look forward to more time being a father now he has confirmed the gloves are well and truly hung up. Retirement did look on the cards at the end of 2018 following his classic confrontation with Josh Warrington in Manchester, but he decided to give it another go at another weight and now the story concludes with a world title defeat to Jamel Herring in Dubai.
What cannot be in any doubt is that Carl is the finest Irish fighter of his generation and anybody else’s. The way he goes about his business outside of the ring and inside saw him quickly become a unifying force for his country and there was no divide when Carl went to work.
It takes a special person and a special fighter to have such an impact on a nation. The rest of Belfast’s boxing boys and girls have got big boots to fill, that is for sure.
His title shot at super featherweight – having already reigned at feather and super bantam – was a long time in the making and should have taken place in May 2020 in front his adoring supporters in Belfast. I suspect the lost 11 months would have worked more against Carl than the WBO champion.
Would the outcome have proved different? We will never know.
I was thrilled back in 2017 when Carl decided Queensberry was his promotional destination of choice. I had long admired his accomplishments and his impeccable conduct and working with him only saw him go up in my estimation.
During talks he set out his goals which, at the time, were another world title tilt – his previous fight was the return against Leo Santa Cruz – and the opportunity to perform at Northern Ireland’s national stadium, Windsor Park.
I am happy that we were able to deliver on our pledges to Carl and that he has enjoyed the final chapters of his glittering career.
We had two fantastic nights bringing him home to the SSE Arena (Odyssey) where he notched up an excellent win over Horacio Garcia and a much-underrated victory over Nonito Donaire. You have to be there to fully realise just how much Carl means to the Belfast public. We had some big fights involving popular local fighters on the cards and the atmosphere was lively, but when Carl comes out it is just different gravy and the arena sizzles with anticipation.
Between the Donaire win and the realisation of Carl’s Windsor Park dream, Josh Warrington confounded the doubters by pounding Lee Selby to defeat at Elland Road to win the IBF world title. Unfortunately it would have been just too quick a turnaround for Josh to defend against Carl on the memorable night of August 18 when Carl had thousands singing in the rain during his beating of Luke Jackson for the WBO Interim belt.
It was quite a night, where we also witnessed the opening exchanges between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder ahead of their epic confrontations.
Next on the to-do list was delivering a world title opportunity and it came on that magical Manchester night where we saw one of the best fights I have attended in person.
It was a pre-Christmas carnival, with many thousands of Belfast and Leeds fans filling the giant arena and it was a fight I will never forget. Carl was rocked heavily early on and struggled to contain an inspired Josh but, such was his courage and pride, he stayed on his feet and saw it through to the end.
Now it is all over, I can only thank Carl for playing his part in my 40-year promotional journey and I cannot speak highly enough of him as an individual. Everybody who has dealings with him comments on his professionalism and cooperation. I just wish we had got to team up a few years earlier.
He has made huge sacrifices across his career working away from home and I am sure he and his lovely family will relish being together on a full-time basis now.
That Carl didn’t bow out as a three-weight world title holder doesn’t matter. He will always be a champion in the eyes of everyone. You only have to look at the warmth of the tributes since Saturday night to realise that.
IF ANYONE FANCIES a bit of nostalgia and a little trot down Memory Lane then allow me to point you in the direction of BT Sport Films on Sunday night at 9.30pm (BT Sport 1).
‘Make It Or Die Trying: The Frank Warren Story’ has been put together over a lengthy period of time and chronicles my life from growing up in Islington and right through my time in boxing, with all the ups and downs I have encountered and come out fighting.
As you might expect, there are no punches pulled and I hope you find it an enjoyable watch.