Carl Frampton fears Covid-19 could dash boxers' dreams of glory

Carl Frampton (Getty Images)
Carl Frampton (Getty Images)

Carl Frampton's bid to become the first Irish boxer to be crowned world champion at three different weights is on hold but his greater concern is for the future of the sport globally.

The 33-year-old has told AFP the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic means he will be lucky if he gets to fight WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring this year.

The bout had been due to take place in Frampton's hometown of Belfast, in Northern Ireland, on 13 June.

Despite the frustrations due to the enforced delay, Frampton says he is in a better position than many other boxers, who rely on "bums on seats" to make money.

"My genuine concern for boxers is less than one percent of fighters globally are able to live comfortably without having to fight on a regular basis," he said.

"I know a lot who live purse to purse and on sponsorship deals which are small, local businesses."

The former super bantamweight and featherweight world champion says those sponsors can no longer support the boxers due to the financial hit from the shutdown.

"They are pulling out because they can't afford to do it anymore as they have to pay other bills," he said.

"I feel privileged and lucky that I am in a position where I am not relying on the next purse to eat again. It sounds harsh but it's true."

Frampton, who is actively involved in encouraging more integrated schooling between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, says even some at the top are struggling.

"There are world champions who find it hard to sell tickets and rely on being a hit on TV," he said. "I am in a good position as I fought in some big fights and built up some money and I can dip into that at the moment.

"Hand on heart I feel genuinely sorry for these guys on the breadline for they have dreams and aspirations themselves. My genuine concern is they will have to give up on their dream of becoming champions."

Frampton says one potential way those lower down the food chain in boxing could earn money would be through fans paying a subscription to watch streamed fights.

"You don't want a sport to die," he said. "Say for instance social distancing is put in place for one to two years then boxing could take a huge hit.

"There are people better positioned like promoters to know about how realistic it is to stream fights online and charging a smaller fee to watch live boxing again. At least boxers who are really struggling will get paid."

Frampton, though, is realistic enough to know that boxing is a business for promoters.

"Let us not kid ourselves - a promoter is in boxing to make money," he said. "They are not going to put on shows for boxers to make money if they are going to lose money."

Frampton has been keeping to a fitness regime, installing a mini-gym in his garage and working out five days a week.

"However, you cannot get ready for a world title fight with a camp in a garage on your own," said Frampton, who has given up on learning the guitar during the hiatus after struggling to follow YouTube lessons.

"You need a coach and at least an eight-week training camp, though I prefer 12. The title bout is still a long way off. If it happens this year I would be happy."

Frampton, who helps with the cooking while his "brilliant" wife Christine homeschools nine-year-old daughter Carla and five-year-old son Rossa, would reluctantly accept a fight without spectators.

"I would rather not but a professional boxer is self-employed," he said. "It is up to the promoter and TV company.

"If they come to me and say 'here is a chance to fight a world title but behind closed doors take it or leave it', you have to take it."

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