Carl Frampton: how he’s getting to grips with life out of the ring

Not at all!” insists Carl Frampton when asked if he misses life in the boxing ring.

Honestly, no — I’ve been doing a bit of punditry and that way I can get involved in big nights of boxing without taking the punches, so honestly no, I don’t miss it one bit.

“I had been looking out over the last few years anyway,” he adds. “I wasn’t the same fighter that I used to be — I found that out in my last fight — so that was it.

“I did wonder what I was going to do after boxing and was hopeful that opportunities were going to come up to keep me busy as I didn’t want to go into coaching or management or anything like that just yet, because I’ve been away from my family for so long, I just want to be at home with them for a bit.

“Maybe, I’ll do that in the future, but for now, thankfully, I’ve been extremely busy, and it’s all been good stuff.”

Carl may have stepped away from the boxing ring in April, but the two-weight world champion hasn’t lost his competitive edge.

In a new six-part podcast series on BBC Sounds, Carl Frampton — A Different League, the boxing champ meets stars from a wide range of sports to chat about their chosen profession and what it takes to become an elite athlete.

He also gets put though some tough, head-to-head challenges.

The first two episodes are available now with the next four dropping on consecutive Tuesdays.

In episode one, Carl spoke to WWE superstar Drew McIntyre and in episode two, he met former cricketer, Monty Panesar.

Other guests in the series include local sporting stars MMA fighter Leah McCourt, who talks about balancing competing at the highest level with being a single mum and challenges Carl with a few MMA moves, Leeds United and Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas, and four-times World Championship snooker player John Higgins.

“I’ve really enjoyed doing the series,” says Carl.

“It’s really taken me out of my comfort zone and got me doing something completely new.

“The guests have been brilliant. They’ve known that I’m a newbie and taken it easy with me — for the most part,” he laughs.

“And the feedback’s been decent which I’m really happy about because podcasting’s something I’ve never done on my own before and it was a bit scary to be honest, but everyone’s been dead nice helped me through it.”

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Carl Frampton with Northern Ireland player Stuart Dallas Carl Frampton with Northern Ireland player Stuart Dallas

Carl Frampton with Northern Ireland player Stuart Dallas

BBC NI

Carl Frampton with Northern Ireland player Stuart Dallas

Throughout the series, one of the topics that Carl and his guests regularly touch on is ‘missing out’ on family life and occasions and the regret that can come with that.

“Yeah,” he says. “You miss a lot of your children growing up in the early part of their lives because you’re away so often and for long periods in training camps.

“It was a sacrifice I made so that we could have a better life.

“I know that boxing’s a short career, which is why I decided to make that sacrifice, but there have been times when the missing out has hurt me deeply and it’s been brutal and harsh.

“My wife Christine had relatives who passed away when I was in the middle of a training camp and I couldn’t come home for their funerals and that’s something that really annoys me still, because I should have come home, and I didn’t.

“You hear sports people all the time talking about being selfish and Drew McIntyre mentions how top sports people in any field have to have a certain amount of selfishness about them. I think that’s what it takes to get to the top.

“I always saw the end goal. I was doing it to win titles and become a world champion. But it was also to set up a solid base and security for me, Christine and the kids at the end of it.

“But it wasn’t easy, and there was a price to pay.”

Frampton grew up with an older sister and younger brother in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay area of Belfast. His dad Craig worked for Belfast City Council and his mum, Flo, in a supermarket — she still does and refuses to retire and let her son look after her, asking him, “Well, what else would I do?”

And Carl tells me that despite his dad taking redundancy from the council, he’s considering going back to work because he’s bored in the house. They’re both grafters.

None of the family were sporty at all and it was in fact football, and not boxing, that the young Carl wanted to pursue as a career.

“I talk about that to Stuart Dallas in one of the podcasts,” he says. “As a child I did both and I enjoyed football more than the boxing.

“I was okay at football, but I was a better boxer and when I was about 16, I had to make the decision which one to go with if I wanted to make a career in competitive sport.

“I would have preferred to have been a footballer though,” he laughs.

However, being involved in sport, especially boxing, from an early age meant that Carl was constantly meeting other young people from all different backgrounds — one of whom was best mate and best man, fellow Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes.

“Amateur boxing is absolutely non-sectarian,” says Carl. “Growing up in Tiger’s Bay, it would have been easy to take the wrong path and have hatred toward people from say the nationalist New Lodge, without really knowing why.

“I started going to Midland Amateur Boxing Club when I was seven years old and was always mixing with kids from other areas and I think that opened my mind a lot more.

“I’ve known Paddy since we were kids and through boxing, I saw him all the time growing up. He’s one of my best mates and was best man at my wedding.”

Carl married his wife Christine in 2013 and the couple have two children, daughter Carla, almost 11, and son, Rossa, 7.

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Carl Frampton with his wife Christine Carl Frampton with his wife Christine

Carl Frampton with his wife Christine

Carl Frampton with his wife Christine

Christine has stood shoulder to shoulder with Carl throughout his career and has become quite a celebrity in her own right due to her smart and witty posts and clever ripostes on Twitter and other platforms.

So how did they meet?

“I hate being asked this,” he squirms. “But it was through social media. I know these days, meeting people that way is the norm, but back then it was a bit of a sad thing to do.

“It wasn’t a dating site, or anything like that, it was through Bebo, if you remember that.

“Christine added me because she was into boxing and we started to chat on the site.

“She maybe knew who I was, but she was more into Amir Khan at that time — I think she fancied him. We first met in person at Kelly’s nightclub in Portrush. She was very, very funny and witty and really good looking as well.

“That was out of the norm for me — to have a good-looking, funny girl.

“Christine has played a massive part in my success as a boxer. She’s been an influence and an inspiration as well.

“And she’s a very clever girl. She has a degree in criminology and criminal justice and because I was away from home so much, she hasn’t been able to pursue her own career or do anything else.

“I know for a fact that that annoys her. She doesn’t want to be seen as just my wife.

“She’s a fantastic mum and amazing woman. It’s much easier to do my job and take punches to the head than be a stay-at-home parent.

“But it’s her turn now, so we’re going to figure it out and see what she would like to do in terms of her own career.”

Since he’s retired from boxing, Carl’s become quite a cat lover.

“I have,” he laughs. “My whole life I’ve been a dog lover, but when our wee dog died last year we took a stray in and called it Claudia and have since got a kitten called Arthur. I didn’t choose the names by the way!

“And they’re alright, you know — cats,” he laughs.

“I didn’t think I’d like them to be honest,

“Claudia used to hang around and eat out of the bins when the dog was there and he used to chase her, but once the dog passed away, she came all the time.

“We took her to the vet he said that it was obvious she wanted to be near us, so that was that and she moved in.”

Physically, have there been any hangovers from being involved in such a tough sport like boxing?

“I’ve had a few operations on my hands, so they’re not great, but nothing that has me worried,” he says. “But who knows what’s gonna happen. Boxing is a brutal sport and a dangerous sport at times and there’s been head trauma — getting punched in the head is not good for anybody — but at this point in time (touch wood), I’m okay.”

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New direction: Carl Frampton has a new six-part podcast series on BBC Sounds, Carl Frampton — A Different League New direction: Carl Frampton has a new six-part podcast series on BBC Sounds, Carl Frampton — A Different League

New direction: Carl Frampton has a new six-part podcast series on BBC Sounds, Carl Frampton — A Different League

BBC Northern Ireland

New direction: Carl Frampton has a new six-part podcast series on BBC Sounds, Carl Frampton — A Different League

But what if one of his children wanted to take up the sport and follow it as a profession, how would he feel about that?

“Boxing is a great sport and amateur boxing is a safe sport,” says Carl.

“Critics say it’s not, but it is. You get big, padded gloves and head guards and stuff and referees are very protective.

“I wouldn’t force the kids into it, but if they if they want to do it, I’m not going to stop them either. Rossa has just turned seven and he is showing a bit of interest and Carla who’s 11 in a few weeks was talking about boxing a bit, but she’s just got into a wee football team and that’s taken over.

“I’ll support them in whatever they want to do.”

Looking back, what is it that he’s most proud of?

“I’ve won more titles and awards than I ever imagined I would, but if I’m being honest, I’m most proud of my fan base. I believe that in my prime I was the most supported fighter in the UK.

“I’ve had 23,000 people cheering me on at Windsor Park in 2018 and in 2017 about 5,000 fans travelled out to watch me fight in Las Vegas in January — a month when people don’t have a lot of money. The fan base has been phenomenal.”

Back to podcasting, who would be his dream guest — dead or alive?

“George Best. He was my hero. I would love to have met Bestie. And also, Muhammad Ali — the greatest sportsman that’s ever graced the planet. I would have been in awe of both of them, to be honest, so I don’t know how good I would have been talking to them,” he laughs.

Carl Frampton — A Different League, is a six-part BBC Northern Ireland production available to listen to on BBC Sounds. You can hear the first two episodes now with four more episodes dropping on consecutive Tuesdays.

Belfast Telegraph