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Carl Frampton reflects on the amateur fight and fighter that almost ended his career

One of the greatest ever Irish professional innings could have been over before it started.

Carl Frampton is just one win away from being Ireland’s first three-weight world champion and, as a result, arguably our greatest ever fighter.

The Belfast man has unified world titles at super bantam and claimed world honours at feather following previous Celtic, Commonwealth, and European belt wins.

He sold out stadiums, brought big nights to Belfast, and possibly more importantly gave Ireland a star to support in a generally barren time for the sport.

It’s a career of huge note and massive significance, one that leaves a legacy beyond in-ring achievements.

However, it’s a career that may not have been, as ‘The Jackal’ came close to retiring at the tender age of 20.

On January 10, 2008, Clonmel BC fighter Kevin Fennessy outpointed the then Midlands fighter in the National Senior Championships.

The reverse – which came months after Frampton claimed his sole major amateur medal, an EU silver – frustrated ‘The Jackal’ to such a degree he nearly hung up his vest.

Not turn pro, and Barry McGuigan had his eyes on Frampton at this stage, but retired from the sport completely.

“There was a real turning point in my career. I would have been about 21,” Frampton said in ‘The Strive For Greatness: Carl “The Jackal” Frampton’ documentary, filmed by The Mulligan Brothers.

“I was still an amateur at the time, and I lost to a guy called Kevin Fennessy in the Irish Championships.”

“To be honest, Kevin wasn’t a bad fighter, but at that stage, I knew boxing was going to be my career and I wanted to be a professional boxer, and I couldn’t be losing to people like Kevin Fennessy.”

“Anyway, he beat me fair and square and I went home to my then-girlfriend at the time, and now wife, Christine, and I just had a talk with her.”

“I said ‘look, I’m going to pack it in’ and ‘what’s the point of doing this if I can’t beat guys like him’,” he adds before revealing Christine, whose status as an Irish boxing fan favourite is just about to be enhanced, talked him round.

“She kind of had a word with me and said ‘stick it out’. She knew I wasn’t training the way I should have been, maybe putting two weeks of hard training in before a fight which isn’t enough.

“I stuck it out, and drew Kevin Fennessy the next year in the quarter-finals of the Irish Championships. I trained properly, as an amateur but like a professional. And I stopped him. His corner threw the towel in.

“And that was a real turning point for me. I knew if I put the effort in then I could do this, and I could go very far.”

In fairness most boxers find themselves in a similar place at various times in their career, but if Frampton would have gone through with it Ireland would have lost one of its best to the British Army.

“I always wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t carried on. If I hadn’t had that talk with my wife,” Frampton said.

“I rationally tried to think about why I lost that fight to Kevin Fennessy, because I was a very, very close to jacking it in.

“I was thinking about joining the army, actually. My whole life was boxing at that point. I hadn’t worked another job, I was focusing on boxing.

“And I was losing to this guy and thinking what am I going to do now.

“I ended up sticking it out for another year, and that year I beat Kevin Fennessy, I beat Tyrone McKenna, and I beat one of Ireland’s greatest ever amateurs, David Oliver Joyce.”

“That was the point I knew, and very few people get that lucky. That it doesn’t come without hard work and dedication.

“You have to focus on things and fight through adversity at times.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com