Becoming A Jackal: The Carl Frampton Effect

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Like many of his contemporaries, Carl Frampton is a fighter bred very much by circumstance.

An upbringing in 1980s Belfast commanded a battling spirit from his generation, and while for many it led down a tumultuous path of civil unrest, Frampton opted for the road less travelled and that has made all the difference.

There seems almost a fated irony, then, that he was reared in the shadow of the infamous Duncairn Gardens wall that divides the Antrim Road’s loyalist and republican strongholds.

After all, Frampton has spent the best part of his life tearing down such sectarian boundaries.

The Tiger’s Bay man’s marriage to childhood sweetheart Christine Dorrian, a native of Poleglass in the west of the city, is testament to that.

But likewise his boxing career has served to unite feuding communities on a much larger scale.

Comparisons between the sprightly super-bantamweight and grizzled champion emeritus Manny Pacquiao are admittedly premature on a strictly boxing level, yet the social standings of the pair in their respective homelands are not so dissimilar.

The latter, these days as renowned for his political endeavours as his pugilistic ones, has long since been a lightning rod for unity in the often fractious metropolises of the Philippines.

Frampton has followed suit in this regard, playing the role of cross-community conciliator in a manner not seen on this island since the heady days of one Barry McGuigan. If parallels between Frampton and Pacquiao may be something of a stretch, those between the two Ulstermen are a dime a dozen.

Like McGuigan before him Frampton’s boxing career has, by dint of turbulent social factors outside of his control, assumed significance far beyond that of the average prize-fighter.

The almost innate kinship they share in this regard makes it fitting that the Clones Cyclone has these days assumed the role of Frampton’s promotional manager. As far as offering guidance to his protégé about the chutes and ladders of marrying one’s responsibilities in the ring with those outside it, it’s difficult to think of somebody more suitable for the job.

With that being said, ‘The Jackal’ very much ploughs his own furrow when it comes to ensuring that it’s his boxing which truly steals the headlines.

And while memories of Barry’s barmy night in Shepherd’s Bush are entirely second-hand for the 28-year-old, Frampton has already embarked on creating some rather more tangible ones of his own.

An unerring dismantling of IBF kingpin Kiko Martinez last September saw him crowned the 20th titlist to hail from the Emerald Isle.

Whereas his idols McAuley and McCullough found themselves flung afar in search of the ultimate prize, he had the temerity to conquer the world from his doorstep. 16,000 packed a purpose-built stadium at the historic Titanic Quarter to witness the coronation.

Although the maiden defence of his belt took place in the neighbouring Odyssey Arena, it soon became apparent that the scope of his ambition extended far beyond Queens Quay. The fact that his next two fights were beamed free-to-air on both sides of the Atlantic spoke for his intent.

Frampton’s ITV annihilation of mandatory challenger Chris Avalos was the first championship fight in eight years to be broadcasted terrestrially in both Ireland and Britain.

Four months later, and just seven days on from Conor McGregor’s defining night in Sin City, Ireland’s not-so-interim world champion made a stateside splash of his own, outpointing teak-tough Texan Alejandro Gonzalez in El Paso.

The bout was not only Frampton’s maiden American voyage but his first outing as a member of Al Haymon’s rerafied ‘Premier Boxing Champions’ stable.

For Team Frampton, it was very much a dream come true.

“I am very happy to have been given this opportunity by Al Haymon,” said the IBF titlist following his first US appearance.

“He has a formidable reputation in boxing and has been the catalyst to securing the biggest fights in recent years. This is an exciting stage of my career after winning my world title, and my team and I know that this relationship will help take my career to the next level.”

McGuigan, who remains de-facto promoter, was equally enamoured by the link-up.

“We are delighted to add Al to the team. He works with many world class fighters in the super-bantam and featherweight divisions, so there will be plenty of attractive opportunities for Carl in the coming years.

“He is moving towards the peak of his career and we believe this is the perfect time to strike up the partnership.”

In addition to a long-mooted domestic showdown with Scott Quigg, potential bouts against Gary Russell Jr, Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares now sit firmly on the horizon.

For his Belfast faithful, however, such speculation is often just accessory to the fact.

As Michael Parkinson once said, the relevance of sport in everyday life is its irrelevance to everyday life.

Frampton’s true value lies in the escapism he offers people from the travails of reality, his ability to abate the political posturing and religious brinkmanship so often associated with his home town is unique in that respect.

Indeed, regardless of site or setting, the boy from the Bay enters the ring not only for himself, but for a city uniquely united in his name.

Ronan Mullen

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