Carl Frampton Goes a Round With Host Gerry Kelly

Gerry Kelly interviews retired boxing champion Carl Frampton in Downpatrick

Carl Frampton (37), the popular ex-boxer who won world titles at two different weights has packed arenas across the globe.

But on Monday night (29th April 2024) it was his turn to fill the house with some of his many fans at the St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick writes Jim Masson ©

Carl has hung up his gloves after hundreds of amateur and professional fights and he recounted his many fond memories – and some not so fond – through his boxing days.

So the match was on for a frank discussion about a wide range of issues through Carl’s live, some of which have shaped him to the man he is today, and others are memories of a past strewn with “trusting” the wrong people too much.

In the blue corner was Gerry Kelly standing at about 6-feet one weighing in at approximately 16-stone with a reach almost as big as that of Stephen Nolan on the Nolan Show, facing Carl Frampton in the red corner standing at 5-feet 5-inches with a reach of 62-inches who boxed at Super Bantamweight and Super Featherweight.

Carl Frampton, retired former double world boxing super-bantamweight and super-flyweight champion pictured at the St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick with TV and radio host Gerry Kelly, and Vincent MacNabb, a member of the Board at the Centre. (Photos in the centre by Jim Masson / Down News ©)

Gerry Kelly welcomed Carl to the ‘arena’ and locked on immediately at close quarters to Carl’s amazing boxing ability having boxed and won world titles at super bantamweight and super featherweight.

Carl explained there was only 4lbs of a difference between the weights but the process of weight control was gruelling.

“I had to avoid carbs and stick to a meat and fish diet, no sugars, and just before the match I had to drink 8 litres of water a day. It was tough.

“At super-bantamweight I had to make 122 pounds. I trained in a special sweat suit, took saunas, and had hot baths.

“Even my bowels which in most people have a couple of pounds of waste counted. At this stage of the training I often felt exhausted. I had to avoid salt too in my diet.

‘Then I had to stop the large drinks of water and try and shed that extra 10% of my body weight to get over the line. It was very hard.

Gerry asked him about his early days in Tigers Bay and Carl did not pull any punches.

Carl Frampton is welcomed by Gerry Kelly, interview host.

“I lived close to the New Lodge and in the summer months I played out in the street and like other kids, I was like a sponge. I soaked up the ideas being fed by the paramilitaries.

‘Mark Haddock [UVF Loyalist activist] actually lived beside me and one day under a boulder I found a gun and a mask and some bullets. I asked my father what I should do with it and he said ‘Leave it!’

“But eventually as a quiet kid I got interested in boxing and trainer Billy McKee used to drive me to the Holy Family in the Catholic area of town. He would never go in to the club. And one day he could not make it and another trainer took me over the divide.

“And he went in through the front door. But nothing happened. We all lived in feelings of apprehension that he being a Protestant would come to harm. But I found out that in the boxing world we had a close affinity and that really stuck with me.

“I had about 200 amateur fights from the Holy Family Boxing Club, and I had 150 wins there. Eventually I was asked to fight for Ireland. I didn’t give it two thoughts.

“I always remember getting my first green vest as a youngster – I wore it constantly until is was dirty. I was so proud of the achievement.”

Gerry then cornered Carl, who spoke about the early part of his pro career.

“I then thought about going pro and in those days the promoters were Hearn, Warren, and McGuigan. I spoke to Billy McKee my early mentor and said I wanted to stay with Gerry Storey.

‘But I ended up in Hearn’s stable and got a £6000 payment up front then stepped up to £20,000. Basically it was a lot of cash in those days.

Gerry Kelly chats to Carl Frampton about his life in and out of boxing.

“Then I got a grand a round for a pro fight. Everyone in my social circle wanted me to make it to the top and I just went along with it. I wasn’t a bad kid at school and did A-Levels and eventually went to Ulster University to study Sports Science – for one day.

“I met my wife Christine there but she is a Catholic from Poleglass and I was happy visiting her area but I could never bring her into Tigers Bay.

“So I was doing what I wanted to do… boxing.”

Gerry asked Carl what fight really gave him the big break he needed ?

Carl said he thought it was the Euros – he beat Spaniard Kikko Martinez in the seventh round in the SSE Arena. He said: “Martinez was tough. When I ended the match I had two burst eardrums, damaged hands, and I was pee-ing blood. But I won and I knew I was on the way up.

“I fought him in the later IBF super-bantamweight and the match in front of 16,000 spectators on the Titanic slipway was incredible.” Carl beat him finally in the 12th round with a flurry of punches to secure the world title.

“I then fought Santa Cruz in New York for money I could not turn down. And won again.”

Gerry had softened up his ‘opponent’ and closed in for the big question, what was it like working with Barry McGuigan?

“”Well I thought we were to be the best of friends for life. Everything was going well. Then around 2015 I started to question what was going on financially. I wasn’t getting clear answers.”

Gerry Kelly pressed him again and said that from one fight then there was £2million of a purse but you only saw £145,000 of it. “What happened”? Gerry jabbed.

“I had just trusted Barry. I was probably a bit naive but that’s how I was then. I didn’t have a business background – neither did my early trainers nor my family. Trainer Gerry Storey got elbowed out of the way. I was basically on my own.

Former double world boxing champion Carl Frampton from Belfast explains why he ended up in financial difficulty with promoters.

“I then went to England to train and spar. Eventually my legal team looked at the situation. I had received a vat bill for £400,000 – it seemed that I was paying the bills for the Cyclone company but I was the only director who was not paid.

“I thought I was getting 30% and they were receiving a wage. I was just too trusting. I then left Cyclone, the management company, and spoke to Finucane solicitors.

“I knew I was going to get some flak but I needed the money then.

“Then Barry McGuigan brought a writ against me for breach of contract and I replied with hitting him for loss of earnings.”

Gerry Kelly jabbed again: “What was Barry McGuigan done for ?”

Carl replied: “In court he was asked by my barrister simply, ‘Was this a business cost… and this …’ my legal team had him on the ropes. It was sad what had happened. But it was necessary to address this through the court.

“Barry McGuigan was good at picking fights and opponents for me I’l give him that.”

Gerry’s penultimate question focused on Carl’s unmovable support for integrated education.

“Yes, I am an advocate for NICIE (Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education), and I believe that all children should be taught together. Only 70% of the children here have a shared education.”

From his early days in Tigers Bay, a loyalist enclave in Belfast, his time boxing at the Holy Family Boxing Club to meeting his wife from Poleglass at Ulster University, fighting for Ireland as an amateur boxer, and travelling the world as a pro boxer, his experiences shape him to what he is today.

Carl Frampton MBE.

The great influences in his life such as trainers Billy McKee and Gerry Storey from different backgrounds are a testament that to Carl Frampton, boxing came first in his life as the Troubles raged around him.

In the closing round, Gerry Kelly asked Carl Frampton what legacy he would like to be remembered by.

“I just want to be remembered as a decent lad and a good fighter,” said Carl.

“But you are!” reassured Gerry Kelly.

“I just love amateur boxing,” said Carl Frampton. “It’s made me what I am today. All kids should give it a go.”


You can order Carl Frampton’s Autobiography on Amazon Books UK HERE!