Rare enough are athletes for whom defeat can be dismissed as an occasional evil; rarer still those who manage to evade it entirely.
It took eight years for defeat to catch up with Carl Frampton, last January 28 bringing a first-ever pro loss for the then unified world champion.
“It was a bitter pill”, says Frampton of his Las Vegas reverse. “We had a few drinks, then maybe a few tears in the Irish pub across from the MGM. I was gutted, but I tried not to let it upset me too much. I lost to a three-weight champion on what was a bad night for me, and still it was really close.”
That he had beaten Leo Santa Cruz in the pair’s first clash showed just how close it was, 2016’s Brooklyn barnburner a signature win on his already stacked résumé.
It was a fight of the year contender from round one, phonebooth-friendly exchanges assuring a rematch was all but secured by the final bell.
The sequel, however, would amount to something wholly less frenetic, its end result all the more fraught.
“It was a tough one to take, and some of the rounds were close, but I think Leo did deserve the nod (from the judges). In fairness, he told me what he was going to do, that he planned to shift to long range, and he did it. The slugger outboxed the boxer that night. He was very clever and he used his reach.
“It was a very good fight, though, and I know I can perform better. We’ll have to do it again; let’s just hope we can get it back to Windsor Park.”
Whether the trilogy will actually conclude on these shores is still to be seen, the prospect of any potential decider certain to marinate for some time yet.
Come what may, ‘The Jackal’ has never been one for treading water, his return home suggesting a keenness to make more waves on this side of the Atlantic.
“I’ve spoken my whole career about how the atmosphere here is unlike anything else,” declared the 30-year-old ahead of tonight’s Belfast fight with Horacio Garcia.
“The most important thing for me at this stage is simply to be back fighting in my city.
“Garcia is a typical Mexican warrior who hasn’t been stopped and who is coming here to make a name for himself. It will be good to get a fight in versus a live opponent before I get in with one of the big boys in 2018. This is a great way to end the year and I’m delighted to be home.”
It has taken a little longer than planned, of course, the belated nature of Frampton’s arrival borne out of circumstance rather than design. A series of unfortunate events put paid to what was originally a July date, freak injuries incurred by then challenger Andres Gutierrez nixing the bout with only hours to go.
On some level, the ordeal seemed almost befitting of what had become a wretched week. Frampton’s unsuccessful trip to the scales already brought an element of jeopardy, yet it was simmering trouble behind the scenes which first piqued concern.
Rumours of a rift with manager Barry McGuigan were confirmed once Gutierrez officially dropped off the ledger, the Ulstermen opting to cut short their decade-long alliance.
It was a starkly solemn end to a relationship filled with otherwise positive parallels, the split in its own way reminiscent of McGuigan’s uncoupling from long-time mentor Barney Eastwood.
At present, the specifics surrounding this latest promotional divorce stay wrapped in legal wrangles, neither side overly keen to cast stones in public. With time will likely come clarity in that regard, but the show itself goes on.
Indeed, barely had ink dried on news of Frampton’s free agency than had subsequent arrangements been signed, a link-up with long-established promoter Frank Warren swiftly agreed.
It appears a perfect fit by all accounts, the decorated featherweight an ideal headline act for Warren’s newest troupe of Belfast talent.
Chief among those set to flourish along that blazed trail is Jamie Conlan, the unbeaten brawler finally afforded a worthy platform from which to showcase his wares.
A series of thrilling battles off-Broadway have seen the 31-year-old thrust to centre stage, his world title tilt against IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajas allotted prime-time billing at the SSE Arena.
He will be eager to turn this weekend’s homecoming celebration into his own coming out party, with serial Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes among other supporting characters similarly intent on seizing their shine.
For the moment, though, Frampton remains the leading man.
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