An Irishman, a Welshman and a Spaniard walk into a bar. Wait, no. They all walked into Carl Frampton’s fists.
The 28-year-old Belfast, Northern Ireland, native has been chewing up and spitting out overseas contenders in the 122-pound division since turning pro in 2009.
Now as he gets ready to take his game to the United States, facing Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday in a world title fight airing live on CBS (4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT), Carl Frampton looks back over how he got here with three memorable wins over some of the best the British Isles and the Continent had to offer in his Greatest Hits.
3 vs David Oliver Joyce, February 20, 2009, at National Stadium in Dublin
David Oliver Joyce was a repeat champion in the Irish Amateur Boxing Association who had already handed Frampton a loss late in 2008 at the Central Council Tournament. Three months later they met again at the National Stadium, and this time it would be Frampton who prevailed.
“He was a massive favorite in the fight and I beat him well,” Frampton said. “I dropped him. I gave him a standing count. That’s when people started to get interested and take notice of me and think I would make a good professional.”
It was a huge moment for Frampton’s career as he’d turn pro four months later. But it also served as a wake-up call to how he’d been handling his amateur years to that point.
“I had about 50 international fights for Ireland at different tournaments,” Frampton said. “I probably could have done better if I was a little more dedicated. Back then I was young and immature. I messed around a little bit. As soon as I turned professional, I promised myself you only get once chance at this, really. I’m going to give it my all. That was six years ago, and I’ve been doing it the whole time.”
2 vs Robbie Turley, June 4, 2011, at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales
If the decision to turn pro was an obvious one, his first nine fights proved the wisdom of pursuing that path. No losses. Six knockouts. Fights up and down the United Kingdom.
Frampton expected business to proceed as usual against Wales’ Robbie Turley. He was wrong.
“It was probably my worst performance as a professional,” he said. “I won the fight (a 10-round unanimous decision). It was my first fight on TV. I was trying a little too hard to impress. I made a few mistakes. I won the fight quite comfortable, but it should have been a fight where I blasted the guy away. He made me work for it.”
The silver lining is that the less-than-blockbuster performance made Frampton change up his routine. He moved his training camp to London and approached the game with renewed seriousness.
“I think a less-than-great performance was beneficial at that point in my career,” he said.
1 vs Kiko Martinez, September 6, 2014, at Titanic Quarter in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The first time Frampton fought Martinez, in February 2013, it was a senses-shattering brawl. Literally. The hard-hitting Spaniard punctured Frampton’s eardrum in the fight, though Frampton would eventually stop Martinez in the ninth round.
The rematch would again take place in Belfast, this time at the specially built Titanic Quarter. The anticipation had reached fever pitch.
“On a cold, cold night in September last year I won the world title against Kiko Martinez in front of 15,000,” Frampton said. “It was an amazing night, an amazing event. The whole city came to a standstill. There wasn’t a single hotel in Belfast available. Pubs and restaurants were absolutely jammed. It was streamed in 90 countries worldwide.”
The first fight, Frampton said, was marked by mistakes that he was determined to learn from. He must have, because even though he didn’t score another knockout, he notched a fifth-round knockdown en route to winning a wide decision.
“Up until I knocked him out in the ninth round [in the first fight], he was pushing me quite hard and the rounds were quite compeititve,” Frampton said. “I knew I made a lot of mistakes and if I could rectify those mistakes and not make them again the second fight would be much easier. Although I only beat him on points the second fight, I always felt in control. I think it was the best performance of my career.”
For complete coverage of Frampton vs Gonzalez, visit our fight page.