Jamel Herring ended Carl Frampton’s boxing career on Saturday night when, in a victory as clinical as it was brutal, he stopped the 34-year-old challenger from Belfast in the sixth round to retain his WBO super-featherweight world title. Frampton had hoped to make history in the unlikely setting of a desert resort in Dubai by becoming the first fighter from the island of Ireland to win a world title at three different weights. His dreams were ruined by the former US Marine who dominated the contest in a brilliant display.
Herring suffered a cut above his right eye in the fourth round but, despite blood pouring from the gash, he never looked in serious trouble – unlike Frampton who was outboxed and hurt long before the end. A minute into the sixth round Herring forced him to pause again with sharply accurate punches. Frampton tried to pressure the American but, with his back to the ropes, Herring landed the punch which in effect ended the contest with a withering left uppercut. The impact was so shocking that Frampton seemed to collapse in slow motion, like a building that had been detonated from the inside. It was a distressing sight as he hit the canvas hard.
Frampton was on his knees at the count of five. He looked straight into the face of the referee as he heard “seven … eight …” and then, with glazed eyes, Frampton got up. He looked terribly unsteady as the referee asked if he was fit to continue. He nodded his assent but with a look of stunned resignation on his bruised and reddened face.
Herring steamed forward, knowing the end was near. Frampton threw a few desperate punches but it was a desolate cause. Herring soon landed another crunching left uppercut. The combinations flew from Herring and, when another big left hand jolted Frampton, his trainer Jamie Moore had seen enough. The towel fluttered mercifully into the ring.
The fight, and Frampton’s career after 31 bouts and almost 12 years as a professional, was over.
Frampton held on to the ropes while he waited for his team to console him. On the opposite side of the ring, Herring screamed with delight before he sank on to his knees to say a tearful prayer.
The 35-year-old champion was always in control of his third defence of the title. He is a much bigger man than Frampton, with a much longer reach and a five-inch height advantage over the little Belfast fighter, who is only 5ft 5in. The difference was decisive from the outset. Herring won the first three rounds clearly as he boxed at range, spearing his jab into Frampton’s face with depressing regularity for the Northern Irishman’s vast army of fans watching him for the final time.
There were only a few brief moments of uncertainty for Herring when his eye was cut. He looked surprised as the blood ran down his face. Frampton was sufficiently encouraged to win the fourth and his only round of the fight. But Brian McIntyre and Red Spikes, in the American corner, bolstered Herring and the pattern of the contest resumed and then darkened. In round five Frampton was caught by a sweet left counter which dropped him for the first time. He saw out the round but Herring was far ahead on points when the violent ending was sealed.
Herring has endured a great deal of pain in his life. He went on two tours of Iraq and his experiences of combat marked him. Surviving weeks under fire from mortar rounds and the deadly threat of snipers, Herring was then haunted by seeing a bomb disposal technician blown up. He endured PTSD but the bleakest time of his life began in July 2009 when he lost his daughter, Ariyanah, to sudden infant death syndrome. It took Herring years to recover but he has become one of the most humble and inspiring of world champions.
Frampton conceded: “I got beat by the better man.” He was also close to tears when he said: “I’m deeply upset. I said I’d retire if I lost this fight and that is what I’ll do. My wife and kids have made so many sacrifices. I have missed them so much. I just want to dedicate my life to my family. Boxing has been good to me. It’s also been bad to me.”
Frampton can be proud of his career. He is a Protestant from working class Tiger’s Bay while his wife, Christine, is a Catholic from west Belfast. They have never cared about their different backgrounds but Frampton has always drawn his passionate fans from both sides of the old sectarian divide. His impact on Northern Ireland out of the ring has been admirable and enduring. Frampton, eventually, will recover from this final defeat and find consolation in the far sweeter memories of all he has achieved as a two-times world champion.