Barry McGuigan looks to push Carl Frampton to next level

Barry McGuigan sits still for just a moment in Belfast’s Europa Hotel as he contemplates his answer. 

Barry McGuigan looks to push Carl Frampton to next level

A few hours later he will turn 54, but his birthday celebrations hinge on the performance of his protégé, Carl Frampton in what may turn out to be a career-making fight.

It is 30 years since McGuigan won and defended his world title. As WBA featherweight champion of the world in 1985, a year before his scarring loss to Steve Cruz in the burning Nevada desert, is this where he thought he’d end up — sitting in Belfast’s landmark hotel, promoting and managing the city’s own world champion?

“I thought it would be the furthest thing away…” he answers, trailing off slightly, “when I finished my career I was pretty upset about the whole thing — that my reign didn’t last longer and all of the litigation with [Barney] Eastwood and all that sort of stuff — so it finished pretty tainted for me.

"But I’ve spent 25 years doing commentary and the last four or five years managing and promoting fighters and I can tell you, it’s the greatest satisfaction in the world.

"For me, I want to do this until the day I’m planted. I want to get to 84 and still have an interest in the game, like Bob Arum or Don King. Boxing’s been my whole life and I hope it will continue to be.”

In the end, McGuigan celebrated in style as Frampton’s win last weekend made his ambitions decidedly more realistic, the 28-year-old IBF super-bantamweight champion successfully stopping Chris Avalos in five rounds.

McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions company are backing the champion and have been recently boosted by signing a lucrative sponsorship deal with London-based financial trading company CWM FX, but boxing remains a sport where TV money and coverage is king.

With this bout marking the return of world-championship boxing to terrestrial television, UTV Ireland’s audience peaked at 311,000 for Saturday night’s main event, with a peak audience of 457,000 on the northern UTV channel in the six counties, meaning some 768,000 tuned into the fight in all-Ireland.

But the logistics involved in fight coverage mean the senior TV partner, ITV, must be convinced by viewing figures in the UK if a long-term broadcasting deal is to be agreed and an impressive peak UK audience of close to two million watched Frampton batter Avalos.

“The potential is there for ITV to come in and stay in and have real good quality fights all over the UK, and Ireland — north and south,” says McGuigan on a long-term deal.

Based on the fact that a showdown against arch rival Scott Quigg, a native of Bury, is the most commercially-attractive fight to be made for Frampton, a trip across the water looks to be the preferred option if ITV are to maintain their interest.

“It’s important we try and go out and make him a big name in England and America, too,” says McGuigan.

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