10 November 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
Hindsight tells us that Barry McGuigan was one of the greatest Irish boxers ever. A man who transcended sport, overcame the sectarian division that blighted his country and climbed to the top table of world boxing.
Now two decades since he hung up his gloves, the Clones Cyclone has a protege, who he isn’t shy in saying is destined for equally big things.
“He’s one of the best super-bantamweight prospects in the world I promise you,” McGuigan told irish-boxing.com.
The former WBA featherweight champion is of course talking about Carl Frampton [3(2)-0].
The 22-year-old reigning Irish amateur featherweight champion had just stepped out of the ring following an impressive Irish debut as a professional on the undercard of Paul McCloskey’s European title winning clash with Spaniard Daniel Rasilla. Frampton has quickly become many boxing insiders’ tip for the top and McGuigan is more than happy to concur with this school of thought, albeit with caution.
“I see a bit of myself in him,” McGuigan enthused. “In many ways, he is a better fighter than me. He doesn’t throw as many punches as me, but they are more powerful. We’re going to try and improve the output without taking away his power.”
McGuigan acknowledges that this will not occur overnight after all, the amateur quirks ingrained in Frampton over two years in the High Performance system will take time to adjust.
“He is still a bit static with his head and he will have to work on that but he is a fantastic prospect. We have to improve his head movement, because then he can really make opponents pay as he is a wonderful counter-puncher.
“Old habits die hard and he has to break that mould. When he spars in Anthony Farnell’s gym he spars three and a half minute rounds with a 30 seconds rest. It is a big change from 4x2s when you can steal a round with one shot.”
McGuigan clearly believes in putting his time and money where his mouth is in a bid to develop Belfast boy Frampton into a world beating performer.
“He is going to spar with Rendall Munroe ahead of his next fight [on December 18] as well as Jason Booth. He sparred with John Simpson the last time and easily held his own. These are great experiences and it is good for his confidence because he is doing so well.
“Before that hell have a couple of days off before coming over to spend a week staying with me and my son Shane to do strength and conditioning work, so we will work him hard.”
As well as performing in the ring, McGuigan believes Frampton can deliver at the Box Office.
“I’m not going to start making lofty suggestions, but Id like to see him fight at home regularly because I think he can be a sensation. He sold about 250 tickets tonight for a four-rounder, wait until he gets into title contention.”
McGuigan, of course, is not the only man guiding Frampton’s career. Working with him in the gym is legendary amateur and professional coach Gerry Storey a man who played a major role in McGuigan’s own career.
“I looked after McGuigan the same way,” he admitted. “You can see the same things coming out. He listens and he learns. Every one of his fights there are improvements. He is quiet and unassuming but then a lot of fighters like that. McGuigan was like that when he was a kid. I would say in another 12 to 18 months he could be knocking on the door of the British title and maybe even an Irish title fight before that.”
“It was nice working with Barry and now working with his first signing.”
Frampton himself is quietly confident that he can become a major player on the scene.
“Between me and Gerry (Storey) we sold around 250 tickets and if Rogan hadn’t have been on the same night or if I had been on in Belfast I would have sold a lot more.”
There is a sense of excitement in Frampton as he looks forward to a bright future.
“I am happy with how things have gone,” he admitted. “Hopefully I’ll get another one before Christmas and keep busy. You could do four round fights every two weeks you don’t need a break in between. The more the merrier.”
Framptons relationship with McGuigan is something that will undoubtedly gobble up column inches as he climbs the ranks and the man who calls himself ‘Carlos the Jackal’ admits his mentor’s exploits provides the perfect template for his own career.
“I’ve seen his fights on YouTube because I was too young to remember them at the time,” he said. “My dad and grandad loved watching him and my dad told me when he won his World Title about the crowds on Royal Avenue in Belfast and Dublin who came out to see him which shows what sort of legend he was.
“Barry is more like a friend than a manager, he doesn’t boss me around but gives me a lot of advice and support. He is looking after me well and I am loving boxing at the minute.”
In 20 years’ time hindsight will tell us a lot about Carl Frampton.