DUBLIN — Carl Frampton's career could be finished should he suffer a second successive loss when he returns to the ring in November, he told Business Insider.
The featherweight fighter was beaten by Josh Warrington in 2018 and was scheduled to fight earlier this year but had to withdraw from the bout because of an injury. He sliced his fist open after a "freak accident" which saw an ornament fall on his hand in a hotel lobby, fracturing his fifth metatarsal, The Guardian reported at the time. He has only recently been able to spar properly.
Frampton is 32, and with his wife Christine has two children. He's one of the most well-known combat athletes in Ireland, Europe, and perhaps even the world. He has shared the ring with some of the planet's finest fighters, including Leo Santa Cruz, Nonito Donaire, and Kiko Martinez — beating them all.
Frampton has headlined events in Belfast, Brooklyn, and Las Vegas. He is a comfortable millionaire. He doesn't need to fight anymore, and every bout he takes, he is taken away from his young family and into a lonely training camp where he just gets on with it.
So why do it?
Despite the paydays of his past, his status as a decorated champion at 26-2, and his name power, Frampton is desperate to do something no Irishman has ever done before him.
He wants to be a champion in three weight classes and to hear people herald him as the best boxer his country has ever produced — greater than Barry McGuigan, Steve Collins, and Jimmy McLarnin. He wants to push the Frampton name beyond that historic trio.
'It's make or break'
Business Insider spoke to Frampton before his next fight was confirmed last month, but he told us it's going to be a crossroads bout.
"It's make or break," he said. "At my age, another loss is possibly career-ending."
Frampton fights a 26-year-old American called Tyler McCreary at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in Nevada on November 30. It should be a routine victory for the more experienced Frampton but, from there, he told us he wants one more big fight, a trilogy bout against Santa Cruz to settle their rivalry, or a shot at Oscar Valdez.
The thing he wants most, though, is boxing immortality.
As a former world champion at super bantamweight and featherweight, Frampton wants to move into the super featherweight division and win a title there, too. As a three-weight world champion, he would do something no Irishman has ever done before, and be in the same company as boxing greats like Shane Mosley, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Alexis Arguello.
"Leo [Santa Cruz] is a possible opponent, moving up to super featherweight by the looks of it, Oscar Valdez moving up to super featherweight. They're the two fights I'm interested in. Any champion at featherweight or super featherweight, 126-pounds or 130, If I genuinely have a chance to fight any of them, I'm taking it.
"There's never been an Irish three-weight champion … there's only been two Irishmen become a two-weight world champion, and that's myself and Steve Collins. I'm the only man from Northern Ireland to have done it.
"If I can win a world title in a third division, I would be confident enough … and I'm not a big-headed person, I could say I'd go down as Ireland's greatest ever fighter, and that would be an amazing feeling to be able to say it."
Chasing the dream is isolating
Chasing his three-weight dream comes at a cost for Frampton, as it means he isolates himself for five days a week in England, before flying back to Belfast to spend the weekend with his wife and children. "It's not easy," he told Business Insider.
It is an experience other fathers in combat sports may know well, though some isolate themselves even further and train full-time away from distractions at home, before reuniting with their partners and kids after the final bell of the fight they're preparing for.
"I think you just have to mix it up, really," Frampton said. "I'm in Manchester from Monday to Friday, doing hard graft, then the weekends it's a short flight, on a plane for less than one hour, and I get to see my kids.
"I see my kids on a Monday morning before I leave to go to camp, then I see them again Friday evening. So it's not as bad as it seems, but … it's not easy. I miss a lot of things at home. I'd like to be home a lot more."
However, Frampton said it's just part of the game. "I feel like it benefits me more to be away from home where I am actually training and actually can focus on that. When you're at home, little things happen when you're around your family … make these appearances, people looking for you, do jobs, turn up, shake hands.
"When I'm in Manchester, people leave me alone and let me get on with it. It's important to be able to do that, but also see my kids. There's people who spend months away from their kids. I couldn't possibly do that."
In boxing, fighters cannot plan vacations too far in advance, Frampton said. So whenever there is a gap between bouts, the Frampton family try to go away. Recently, they just got back from Lykia in Turkey.
"That's probably our new spot, the kids loved it, we loved it," he said.
Frampton continues to fight so he can end his career on an ultimate high, his goal of becoming the most accomplished and greatest boxer his country has ever produced, before spending all his time with his family in Belfast, even back in Lykia.
Beating McCreary on November 30 would be the first step in that process, but he won't have gone all the way until he books another world title fight, this time in uncharted territory, in the super featherweight division. To challenge for a title in a third weight-class, and win, would complete Frampton's career.
"It would be an amazing feeling to be able to say [I am Ireland's best]," Frampton said. "But if other people were saying it as well, that's a different story."