Carl Frampton’s dignified yet raw reaction after he was stopped by Jamel Herring in the sixth round of their world title fight on Saturday night showed an acceptance that the time has come for him to do all his future work on the safe side of the ropes as a ringside analyst and podcast host. Frampton announced his retirement at the end of a one-sided WBO super-featherweight world title contest in Dubai.
He was close to tears and, after acknowledging that he had lost to a superior fighter on the night, the 34-year-old from Belfast spoke of his wife and two children. Frampton’s family will console him after his dream of becoming the first Irish boxer to win world titles in three separate weight categories came crashing down.
The greatest night of his career is now a distant memory – but in July 2016 he showed the quality of his boxing and the depth of his resolve when winning his second world title, at featherweight, with a dramatic victory over the outstanding Léo Santa Cruz in New York. A few thousand ardent fans had followed him from Belfast and Frampton duly invited them to celebrate with him the next afternoon at an Irish bar in Manhattan.
As soon as we arrived Frampton reached for his credit card and asked me to hand it to the bar manager. All the drinks were on him that fevered and very expensive afternoon. It was a reminder, as fans from east and west Belfast drank and sang together in New York, that Frampton united often bitterly divided communities.
Yet boxing is pitiless in its treatment of ageing fighters and, after losing the rematch to Santa Cruz early in 2017, Frampton has been on a downward curve. He was beaten clearly by Josh Warrington on a night, in December 2018, when he looked worryingly vulnerable. Two subsequent victories over mediocre opponents did not help him prepare for a much bigger world champion in Herring – who towered over Frampton in both height and range.
Frampton’s sadness on Saturday night was obvious. But Herring has saved him from even greater danger. In the last few months Frampton had insisted that, if he beat Herring, he would defend his new title against the mandatory challenger – the unbeaten young American Shakur Stevenson, who held the WBO featherweight belt before moving up a division. Stevenson is 12 years younger than Herring and even more of a threat, but Frampton wanted to fight him in front of 50,000 fans at Windsor Park later this year.
That would have been a perilous night for Frampton. Once the pain of defeat eases, this intelligent former world champion will be glad it is all over. There are many memories for him to cherish after two world titles and almost 12 years as a pro in an unforgiving business.