HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD – 16.11.17
By Alan Hubbard
Magnanimity is not a word much extracted from the sporting lexicon these days.
Indeed, it has become virtually extinct in almost every walk of life where ruthlessness, churlishness, dissent and cynical one-upmanship by almost any means have superseded it in sport, politics, business – you name it.
So I applaud the words of Liam Williams last weekend when, after 12 absorbing rounds he learned he had failed to convince the judges that he had settled the score with bitter rival Liam Smith in Newcastle.
“The better man won,” he admitted in the ring as the mic was thrust towards him.
It was a touch of refreshing honesty despite the score not being exactly settled, at least certainly not arithmetically with one of the three British judges – markng it a draw, another giving it to Smith by four and the third by bizarrely by six (117-116)which seemed impossible to comprehend.
Personally I made Smith winner by two rounds but would not have disputed a draw or even the assessment of several at ringside who gave it to the Welshman by a round or two. It was that sort of fight.
Williams’ reaction was uplifting, as was the entire well-balanced bill which did the old ticker good, reminding us that another almost obsolete word, sportsmanship, can still prevail in boxing.
This was also witnessed in Las Vegas last January when Ulsterman Carl “The Jackal” Frampton surrendered his prized world featherweight belt and unbeaten record to his friendly foe Leo Santa Cruz, the Mexican with whom he struck up a comradeship after taking the same title from him in New York the previous summer.
It was a bruising, 12 rounds points defeat by majority decision, one of the three American judges calling it a draw, the other two giving it by a couple of rounds to Santa Cruz. Personally I made the Mexican win by a wider margin.
It was a good, hard fight, though not quite of the calibre as their original meeting. And as with the Smith and Williams set-to, most of the rounds were very close.
In similar circumstances many fighters would have thrown a wobbly, screamed blue murder about being robbed and stomped off in a paddy.
‘Any fight involving Frampton is a big deal in Belfast and there will be a real sense of homecoming with it being his first bout in Northern Ireland in two and half years’
But Frampton, then the protégé of Barry McGuigan, who had forfeited the same featherweight title in heat of Las Vegas in 1986, chose not to squawk in protest. Instead he elected for honesty and humility.
That’s the sort of guy he is.
Arms wrapped around his Mexican mate he declared unequivocally that the better man had won. There were no complaints from him or the 5,000 Irishmen who had followed him to Vegas as they filtered quietly into the Nevada night.
Frampton’s first tweets after what must have been a devastating loss showed him to be a truly class act and were a lesson in magnanimity.
“Santa Cruz was clever and he used his reach well… I think he deserved to win. Being honest, the better man won on the night. He double bluffed me.”
After such a setback many deposed champions would have hidden away from the spotlight, but Frampton invited all his fans to the Nine Fine Irishmen pub after the fight and paid for drinks all round.
He even later tweeted the man who out-fought him on the night: “A great fighter & even better man. We have to do it again. Congratulations champ.”
He promised fans he would regain his lost title. “I just want to thank everyone for coming out, I know it cost a lot of dough to get here,” said Frampton from the balcony in his deep baritone voice.
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
The fight was good enough to deserve a trilogy and obviously Frampton would like the decider to be to be in Belfast, even inviting his opponent to be a guest at his house while he spent his own time at a training camp.
The ins and outs of Frampton suddenly and sensationally swopping promotional horses in mid career so to speak, have been well aired if not fully explained by the Jackal himself.
So now it is up to Frank Warren, the wisest of impresarios to assist a Frampton reborn under the BoxNation/BT banner and new trainer Jamie Moore, towards achieving that dream, starting this Saturday night in Frampton’s beloved Belfast.
As we know, Frampton’s only professional defeat in 24 fights came against Santa Cruz. This time it is another Mexican fighter, Horacio Garcia, in the opposite corner headlining a bill which includes Jamie Conlan’s world title shot against Jerwin Ancajas.
Any fight involving Frampton is a big deal in Belfast and there will be a real sense of homecoming with it being his first bout in Northern Ireland in two and half years.
Garcia, 33-3-1, and never stopped, is no Tijuana tumbler and looks set to give Frampton a decent workout before what promises to be a massive 2018.
“I keep saying it, but the dream is still of the big fight at Windsor Park,” says Frampton. “I want the third fight with Santa Cruz for that and, if not, then maybe Lee Selby, Oscar Valdez or Gary Russell jr. Josh Warrington is another option.”
Saturday nights in Belfast can be both wild and joyous and this is unlikely to be an exception. It should also be a night of good sport – and, of course, good sportsmanship.
Coverage begins on BoxNation at 7.25pm and on BT Sport at 8.30pm