Big Interview: Carl Frampton recommends the best chippy in Belfast and says modern music won’t age well

GRAEME COUSINS chats to an Ulster sporting icon about the highs and lows of his boxing career, what the future holds and his life outside the ring including his favourite chippy and his love of Fleetwood Mac

By Graeme Cousins
Saturday, 27th November 2021, 5:46 pm
Flashback to 2010: Carl Frampton takes on Gavin Reid at The Ulster Hall, Belfast. 
Photo by Russell Pritchard / Presseye
Flashback to 2010: Carl Frampton takes on Gavin Reid at The Ulster Hall, Belfast. Photo by Russell Pritchard / Presseye

When your dad is Carl Frampton, a boxing world champion at two different weights, there is a fair chance that you’ll feel safe.

And, as recently as last week, the Frampton family was provided with the opportunity to explore every sense of the word when Carl’s son Rossa asked for an actual safe for his birthday.

Carl said: “He loves keys and padlocks and all. He got a safe, he got a few other things as well, but the safe was the main thing he wanted for his birthday.

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Carl has turned his hand to punditry and podcasting

“It’s a proper safe, a decent safe. He collects stones, he’s got all these fake diamonds and jewels that he puts in it. It’s weird, but sure.”

Asked if either of his children – Carla (10) or Rossa (seven) – were going to be sporty like their dad, Carl said: “Carla is going to be 11 in a couple of weeks. She’s playing football for Carryduff Colts, it’s a well run club, she’s really enjoying it.

“They do a bit of karate as well on a Saturday afternoon.

“I got the wee man playing football but he’s not as keen on it as her yet.

Carl 'The Jackal' Frampton in 2010

“We haven’t really had a proper conversation about bringing them to boxing. I imagine when they get a wee bit older they might, the wee lad especially. I’d rather he didn’t, but if he asks I’ll help him out.

“The thing is he’d have a big target on his back.”

Since retiring from boxing Carl has kept in the public eye thanks to TV appearances as a pundit and at the minute his voice can be heard on BBC Sounds as part of his podcast series ‘A Different League’ where he explores other sports apart from boxing, often going outside is comfort zone.

He said: “To be honest I was a bit nervous getting involved with it. I’ve done wee bits of punditry work. I was involved in a podcast before but to take the lead on it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed it.

Carl Frampton won his second world title by defeating Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico in New York. Photo by Anthony Geathers/Getty Images)

“Everyone that I done it with, they were really, really nice. They understood it was my first time so they made it easy for me.

“The first one was with Monty Panesar, it was daunting. Cricket isn’t really something that I know too much about. Monty was a lovely fella.

“The aim of the game is to always try and do a wee bit of the person’s sport. It isn’t always possible. I had to do Drew (McIntyre – a WWE wrestler) on Zoom.

“Monty was bowling a few at me at Twickenham cricket ground and I was trying to hit them. I done alright I think. I smacked a few. Fair play to Monty he was running about after them all, we had no one to catch them. It was good craic.”

Carl Frampton with his wife Christine arriving at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year at Titanic Belfast in 2015. Picture by Andrew Paton/Press

While talking cricket with Monty they touched on the current racism row in the sport, but Carl said the discussion might need to be revisited.

He said: “We were talking about sledging where they all give each other abuse. I asked him the kind of things they said. He mentioned a few things and they were kind of racist. He just laughed it off at the time.

“I think we may go back and try and touch on it again. It’s a big news story now. It would be strange if we just briefly touched on the subject and then moved on.”

While the current cricket scandal has reinforced divisions in society, Carl was a man who brought communities together through his sport.

He said: “Boxing has always been seen as a sport which brings communities together, especially in Northern Ireland. It’s an inclusive sport, non-sectarian.

“I was just doing my own thing and being myself and people from both sides seemed to like that. Being from Northern Ireland people know what I am and where I’m from, but I never nailed my flag to the mast.

Carl, at 23, with his newborn daughter Carla, who will soon be 11. Picture by Russell Pritchard / Presseye

“It’s divisive, it shouldn’t be involved in sport. Sportsmen aren’t politicians – they are there to do a different job and that’s it.

“I fight for the support that I have, I fight for my family, and myself as well. I’ve so many things that can help motivate me, the support certainly and the people who got behind me were incredible. I never would have imagined it if I’m being honest.”

One of Carl sporting friends – Leeds United footballer Stuart Dallas – features in the BBC Sounds podcast: “It was great to see the facilities at Leeds, it’s unbelievable.

“Stuarty showed me a few things. I always fancied myself as a footballer as a kid. I’ve lost any sort of touch that I might have had since I was half decent when I was 16.

“It was good craic playing with Stuarty, a Premier League player. It’s amazing what he’s done, coming from the Irish League, even below Irish League, he was with Coagh United at the start, then Crusaders, then Brentford and now Leeds in the Premier League.”

Stuart isn’t his only friend in the Northern Ireland squad: “I’d be friendly with a lot of the Northern Ireland football team. The guys who have been around a while, and then there’s Dale Taylor who’s just broken on to the scene.

“I’m good friends with his mum and step-dad, I know the kid very well.”

He added: “I could probably count all my real friends on one or two hands, but I’ve a lot of people that I get on well with.

“David Haye would be a good friend of mine through boxing. Big Freddie Flintoff, we’d a bit of a relationship when he was doing the boxing. I get on well with Big Stevie Ferris as well.”

Champ’s go-to location for a fish supper

Carl told of a Christmas tradition that his family has adopted in recent years.

He said: “For the last few years we’ve started going out to one of my mate Jim Conlon’s places. He’s a few restaurants around west Belfast and in the city centre. .

“You do it once, you’d never want to cook a Christmas dinner again in your life. It takes all the stress away.

“I’ll head to one of Jim’s restaurants with Christine (pictured above with her husband) and the family and a few friends.

Asked what his other favourite places for food were, Carl said: “I love Deanes at Queens, I love James Street South. They’d be two of the spots I’d go to if I wanted something real decent.

“Normally in a restaurant when you’re sitting with your family people leave you alone. There’s people who would come over but as long as they’re nice and respectful I don’t mind that.

“There’s plenty of good eating places around Belfast.

“It depends what you’re in the mood for. If I want a nice fish supper, I’ll go to the the Moyola chippy in Tiger’s Bay. You can’t beat it.”

Fighter tells of the signs that told him his time was up in the boxing ring

Carl Frampton won his first world title in 2014 – the IBF super-bantamweight belt – when he defeated Kiko Martinez in front of 16,000 roaring fans in an outdoor arena in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Following his award of an MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours, he moved up a weight class to fight the undefeated Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA (Super) featherweight title in New York City.

In beating his Mexican opponent he became the first two-division world champion in the history of Northern Ireland.

He went up another weight, to junior-lightweight, and was eventually to get a title shot against Jamel Herring after Covid and injury delay, but a third title was to prove just beyond him.

Asked when he knew it was time to step down, Carl answered bluntly: “Well, when I got filled-in in my last fight.”

He explained: “I was thinking about retiring after the George Warrington fight (December 2018).

“Then I rationally sat down to try and think about it. The Warrington performance was a bad performance for me rather than me being completely done and over the hill. I’d a good training camp and I’d prepared really well for it. I just got it wrong on the night.

“I thought of it like that and I spoke to my management team, MTK, and Frank Warren and Top Rank who came in with an offer for me – they said they’d give me another world title shot. 

“I wanted to try and win another world title, it wasn’t to be. Things were delayed because of Covid.

“It’s weird in boxing, you only find out on fight night. I’d a good camp as well in the lead up to the Jamel Herring fight (April 2021).

“I was performing well, I was happy with my sparring, but it’s different sparring with gloves and a big head guard on than when you get in the ring.

“My reactions weren’t what they used to be. I was getting hit a bit too easy. 

“I knew that’s it, that’s the time to call it a day. The plan was – win, lose or draw in that fight – to retire.

“I wanted to retire as a world champion, but it never happened.

“It is what it is, I had a go anyway.”

Prior to his retirement, in November 2020, a legal battle between Carl and his former manager Barry McGuigan for alleged withheld earnings was settled out of court.

Of his life outside the ring, he said: “I’ve been busier than I expected. I’m working for BT Sport as their lead boxing pundit, I’m doing wee bits and pieces with the BBC.

“I’m flat out really, this podcast has been really enjoyable too. It’s another string to my bow.”

Quickfire Q&A reveals Carl’s love of Mac and Gump

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

I listen to everything. I’m an Eagles and Fleetwood Mac fan. I actually went to see Fleetwood Mac on my own when I was in Vegas getting ready for a fight, no one would go with me.

I feel I have a good taste in music, not some of the nonsense that’s released these days.

I’m listening to music from 30, 40, 50 years ago. They’re timeless songs. The stuff today, people aren’t going to be listening to that in 10 years time.

What’s your favourite film?

My favourite film is probably ‘Forest Gump’. I like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ as well.

Do you have any pets?

We’ve two cats – Claudia and Arthur, I didn’t name them, that was Christine and the kids sorted that out. I don’t really know why they’re called that.

What is your biggest achievement and your biggest regret?

I was chosen as The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year in 2016, that was huge. I was chosen out of every single fighter in the world. Probably that it terms of my career.

I was one of the most well supported fighters on the planet so that was something that I’m also very, very proud of.

Biggest regret ... not having a solicitor at the start of my career.

What’s the most drunk you’ve ever been?

After the Santa Cruz fight I got put to bed after a very messy one in New York.

There’s been plenty of occasions when I’ve acted the maggot but that one sticks out.

After a fight, especially if it’s a hard fight, everyone wants to go out on the drink. I want to go to bed, maybe go the next day for a few beers.

I was never a massive drinker, but I hardly touch it at all now.

When watching live sport – executive suite or out with the fans?

When I get tickets for the Northern Ireland games I request that I’m not going to be in the lounge, I want to sit out with the fans.

I go to the matches with my dad mainly. My wee girl has started going to some as well.

I don’t want to be sitting prim and proper with a suit on at the football, that’s not my cup of tea.

Football for me isn’t about sitting amongst people who are invited there and don’t have any real interest in the game.

I do, I support the boys and I’ll shout at the top of my voice for them.

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