There was a theme of sadness running through the final chapter of Carl Frampton’s outstanding career as a professional fighter this weekend. In part because of the apparent inevitability of the defeat to Jamel Herring, and in part because his story drew to a close far from home, far from the fans he loved and the family he yearns for.
Dubai, the crudely affluent capital of UAE, was an ill-fitting suit for a man who has flown highest in the traditional boxing heartlands of Belfast, Las Vegas, and Brooklyn. The location, missing the accoutrements of the historic stages and bigger broadcasters Frampton has boxed on, added to the sense of lament for a prime long since passed and the glorious nights of his twenties. A two-weight champion, with victories over Leo Santa Cruz and Nonito Donaire, Frampton eked a great deal from that fleeting peak and while the Autumn of his career has been unfulfilling, he departs in tact and with enormous respect from those he encountered.
It isn’t the ending Frampton hoped for, or perhaps deserved, but with the unrelenting tick of a fighter’s career, he hadn’t the time to wait for a post-pandemic normality to resume. Money he had, time he did not.
For those willing to listen, to note and not ignore, the familiar clues were conspicuous throughout fight week. Ageing fighters who contemplate retirement in defeat, and perhaps victory to, rarely accomplish the finale they crave. Acknowledging the march of time is refreshing, delusion is a destructive alternative after all, but it doesn’t offer the renewal fighters hope for.
Frampton’s stepping up a division is also a common device deployed to quiet the internal doubt. Removing the distraction of weight cutting proposes to restore strength and energy that has ebbed away. Wisdom becomes the substitute for speed and reflex. In making the match with Herring, a 5-11 Southpaw with far fewer miles travelled, the Frampton camp pursued a title in a third weight class and assumed, perhaps believed, that the obvious physical disadvantages of height, reach and natural size could be overcome with guile, technique and footwork. Herring’s own 35 years induced further confidence.
Perhaps it is the prism of hindsight that the matchmaking was ill-advised, but if it is, then the realisation occurred promptly in the opening round. Frampton looked what he was, an ageing Featherweight boxing a giant Lightweight who dips to 130 pounds for a quarter of an hour the day before he fights.
It is one of boxing’s perversions. Of which there are many. It is neither Herring’s fault, nor Frampton’s. As modern boxing parlance reminds us, ‘it is what it is’.
The fight proved to be a physical mismatch and with close-cropped camera angles, a lack of crowd and the haste of a last minute broadcast partner, it required the quality of the two fighters and their sportsmanship post fight to preserve the dignity Frampton is owed.
Frampton finished on his feet. His youth now spent and with the certainty he has nothing left to give. There is contentment to be found in that truth, if a little sadness too.