IT shouldn’t make sense given the nature of the business, but boxing – it seems – remains the only sport in the world where words speak louder than actions.
At least that was the way it seemed to the paying customers at the Manchester Arena last weekend, not to mention those who forked out €21.95 to Sky Box Office for their pay-per-view subscription.
Yet again they were sold a pup. “It’s fights like this that can ignite the sport,” Eddie Hearn, the promoter said in the build-up. “If you don’t see fights like this, you’ll see the sport die.”
And we all bought into the hype. It seemed to make sense, this pairing of two world champions, Carl Frampton, the Belfast man whose unblemished 21-0 record was slightly superior to Scott Quigg’s return of 31 victories and two draws from his career in the paid ranks.
That there was personal animosity between the pair only added to the drama – Frampton teasing Quigg for his supposedly smaller support base, and his inferior world title, Quigg suggesting the Ulsterman didn’t possess a chin.
If the name-calling had have ended there, no one would have cared. Each camp, however, wanted to show aspects of their personalities that were more interesting than endearing. The Hearns were arrogant, we were told. Shane McGuigan was derided for being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Barry McGuigan – normally the most warm-hearted and generous of men, got dragged deeper and deeper into the argument. And all the while Sky Sports packed their schedule with footage of the drama – a script which had all the depth and class of an omnibus edition of Eastenders.
“I’ll knock him out,” Frampton promised after the weigh-in, an occasion which strangely seemed more intense than the actual fight. “No,” Quigg replied, “I will knock him out.”
As it happens, neither man proved capable of fulfilling their promise. The fireworks stayed in their box. Instead, 20,000 people paid in to see two men play a game of chess, wearing a pair of gloves.
“I knew it was going to be a boring fight,” Frampton said afterwards. “I knew that was how it would probably play out. You can’t really say that before, because it is pay-per-view and nobody will buy it. I knew it would be technical like that.”
If you can admire Frampton for his post-fight honesty, it is hard to forgive anyone on either side for their pre-match bluster. “[Nigel] Benn had [Chris] Eubank and Benn and Eubank had [Steve] Collins, so it’s great to have someone in your [weight] locality that can generate this sort of interest,” McGuigan said in the days leading up to the fight.
Except there was a difference. Benn-Eubank and Collins-Eubank were classics. This wasn’t. Rest assured, no one will be using Quigg-Frampton as a selling point in a couple of decades’ time.
Nonetheless, while the fight lacked incident, it remained strangely engrossing. Both men showed courage – Quigg fighting on for eight rounds with a broken jaw, Frampton staying upright after getting clocked with some ferocious shots late on.
That the Ulsterman should persuade the judges he was the better man was no surprise. The only shock being that one of the three scoring judges considered Quigg’s work to have been better. You’d wonder which fight he was watching.
As for now, we have to wonder which fight Frampton will take next. The IBF have ordered him to fight a Japanese ranked challenger, Shingo Wake, while the WBA have issued instructions for a match-up with Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Cuban who embarrassed Willie Casey, the Irishman who held the European title briefly five years ago.
Rigondeaux, however, is as tough to watch as he is to fight, which is why the McGuigan camp are sensibly steering clear of him, especially as he isn’t a ticket seller. “Rigo is negative, negative, negative, boxes on the back foot superbly, but what do we gain by fighting him? It means nothing,” said McGuigan.
What means everything was this victory, a “thrilled” Frampton said, afterwards.
And now he is looking for more. Windsor Park. Possibly Madison Square Garden. McGuigan is already suggesting he is the greatest Irish boxer of all time and certainly he is on his way to becoming that.
Victory over Rigondeaux or Leo Santa Cruz would go some way to cementing that reputation. Victory over Quigg, unfortunately, only provides a passageway to make more money, not to gain entry into a hall of fame. Remember it was Frampton who pointed out that the Lancastrian was not a legitimate world champion.
“There has been a lot of nonsense said but I have the utmost respect for Scott Quigg, his dedication, his bravery,” McGuigan said afterwards. “Plus we know that Eddie is very good at what he does, but there was lots of stuff that was unnecessary, particularly from [Quigg’s trainer] Joe Gallagher, that got a bit nasty.”
He was speaking in particular about how his son, Shane – Frampton’s trainer – had been undermined. “There’s always a bit of jealousy and people often say he only got here because he’s my son, but he’s a phenomenal trainer, and he’s only 27 years of age.”
Having devised the perfect game-plan last Saturday, McGuigan’s stock is certain to rise still further and Frampton can be thankful to have him in his corner because the kid clearly has something special going on.
As for boxing’s fans, they’ll be cursing him. Having travelled to Manchester in anticipation of a war, they instead were told about the post-fight peace treaty. That’s not to take away from Frampton – and Shane McGuigan’s – achievements. Their business is winning; Hearn’s is selling tickets. Both did their jobs well. Too well.