Carl Frampton has been waiting for almost a year to get Jamel Herring into the ring. It’s a long time to be on the verge of creating history, but despite losing home advantage, he believes the delays to their WBO super-featherweight title fight will benefit him.
Frampton, 34, attempts to become the first Northern Irishman to win world titles in three weight divisions when face Herring on Saturday night at Caesars Palace, Dubai, in what is only the second world title fight to take place in the UAE.
The bout should originally have taken place in Frampton’s home city of Belfast last June, then London in February. But Frampton does not believe that the loss of a partisan home crowd is a blow to his chances. He won his first world title in Belfast, his second in New York, and when it comes to big fights, he knows how to cope.
“Things are happening for a reason and everything is suiting me,” Frampton said. “I don’t know if it is going to make much of a difference where it is, either in front of a big crowd in Belfast or a handful in Dubai. Because it is such a big fight and I am ready for a big fight, atmosphere or not. I will be putting in my best performance.
“People talk about my age, but he is nearly two years older than me. I think the delay has helped me because he has had to hold the weight.”
Jump back two years and Frampton admits he did not expect to still be boxing. Three days before Christmas in 2018, he failed in an attempt to take the IBF featherweight title from Josh Warrington. Sat in his dressing room afterwards, his instinct was to retire.
The decision on when to end a successful career is often a tricky one, especially in a sport as physical and potentially risky as boxing. Frampton had unified the IBF and WBA titles at super-bantamweight before stepping up to win the WBA featherweight title. The Warrington loss was only the second of his professional career, but with a young family at home, the idea of weeks away at a time training wasn’t appealing.
Over the following months, though, it started to dawn on Frampton that he wasn’t finished.
“I knew there was a lot more left,” Frampton said. “It was an under-par performance rather than me being over the hill.
“I knew I was better than that, I performed very well in sparring for that fight. I just underestimated him. I knew it was going to be a difficult fight but I didn’t think he could hurt me. That thought went out of my head after about 30 seconds. After I thought about it rationally, I came to the conclusion that I could win another world title.”
He has a huge edge in experience against Herring, 36, but the American will be comfortably the naturally biggest fighter he has faced. That is where the most recent delay, caused by a hand injury to Frampton, could benefit the Northern Irishman.
“He is a big lump of a man but I know I will be the fresher guy because I am not struggling or killing myself to make the weight,” Frampton said. “He says he doesn’t struggle but that doesn’t make sense. How can he go from finishing his amateur career 10 years ago and fighting two weight divisions below now. It is just not viable to me.”
Frampton flew into Dubai three weeks ahead of the fight to finish his training camp on site and be sure he is acclimatised. As well as being warmer than home, it has been a relief to be out of the UK coronavirus lockdown.
“You can go and sit and have coffee,” he said, revelling in the novelty of such a mundane thing. “We are avoiding places with crowds and wearing masks. But it’s nice to be able to walk about and chill, just have a bit or normality.”
This is no holiday, though. There is serious business ahead and as much as others are building this up as a final hurrah, Frampton has learnt from the Warrington fight not to think too far ahead.
“It is just another fight, that’s all it is,” he said. “I have been saying for the last few years that it is one fight at a time and I will continue to do that.
“But I will do whatever I can to win this fight and I feel I am in a good position mentally and physically to do that.”