In the end it proved to be one division too far.
Irishman Carl Frampton failed in his brave attempt to wrestle the WBO world junior-lightweight title from American Jamel Herring in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Saturday (3rd April).
Referee Giovanni halted the contest on 1:40 of the sixth round after a devastating left uppercut had dropped Frampton. Rising on the count of nine the slick champion proceeded to pile on the pressure to cause Frampton’s corner to throw the towel in, much to the challengers contempt. Chief second Jamie Moore knew Frampton had given his all and saved him from any lasting damage. It was no less than the two divisional former world champion deserved.
The classy Herring took control of the opening rounds working off a fine southpaw jab which the Irishman was never able to get inside for any sustained period. Pre-fight there were mutterings of the champion being tight at the weight, carrying a 5ft 10in frame, but the consequences of this never came to fruition. With the exception of sustaining a cut over his right eye in the fourth round Herring was dominant throughout, also dropping his challenger with a ramrod straight left in the fifth.
Frampton’s big mistake may have been to try to box Herring from the outside early in the contest, feeling his way in and dipping under the jab looking for openings rather than immediately taking the fight to the American. He was far too tentative in the early rounds, perhaps being zapped by some of Herring’s earlier power shots, giving rise to this caution. This writer expected Carl to be the superior boxer on the night, certainly technically, but admittedly was way off the mark for as long as the fight lasted.
Both fighters were pure class throughout the pre-fight build up of this much delayed contest. This continued on its completion with the devastated Frampton immediately retiring from the sport in an emotional post-fight interview. He dedicated the fight to his recently passed first trainer Billy McKee and his future life outside of boxing to his family. Referring to Herring he said “I got beat by the better man, I really struggled to get inside him”.
Herring, understandably ecstatic responded in reference to his challenger “I’m honoured to share the ring with him”. He explained it had been an “emotional rollercoaster just to get here” after twice testing positive for COVID-19 in months leading up to the fight. The ex-US Marine went on to say he had plans to move up (to lightweight) but would remain in the 130lb (9st 4lb) division if (big) fights became available. The 35 year old’s record rises to 23-2 (13 KO’s).
On a performance level the night belonged to the American but Frampton left the sport on his shield, rising from two knockdowns (the latter at the count of nine) and always being competitive. He has completed a stellar career capturing divisional titles at super-bantamweight and featherweight and performing in the boxing meccas of Madison Square Garden, New York City and Las Vegas. Not to forget the magical nights on British shores when he took his first title from Kiko Martinez in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast in September 2014 and unified it in a hostile Manchester Arena against Scott Quigg in 2016.
Frampton is a fighter who never failed to enter the lion’s den to challenge for championships. Further witnessed by his epic two fight series with Mexican-American Leo Santa Cruz in the United States and unsuccessfully tacking Josh Warrington for the IBF world featherweight title in his hometown of Leeds.
He finishes with a record of 28-3 (16 KO’s), two divisional world titles and Ring magazine fighter of the year for 2016. Carl’s legacy is secured in British and Irish boxing and will remain an inspiration to aspiring fighters who emerge from the tough streets of Belfast and the island of Ireland.
Enjoy your well earned retirement and thanks for the memories.