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Carl Frampton returns from freak injury fully healed and in search of third world title

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Carl Frampton, 32, is coming down the stretch of an already brilliant career. (Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff)

LAS VEGAS — The old adage in boxing is to protect yourself at all times, and old-time fighters are well aware that trouble lurks in the strangest places.

Carl Frampton is a veteran, but he can be excused for failing to keep his guard up on Aug. 5. On that summer day, Frampton was five days away from meeting Emmanuel Dominguez in a non-title bout he hoped would lead to an end of the year title shot.

Frampton was sitting in the hotel lobby, awaiting an interview, when suddenly disaster struck. He was seated in a chair in front of a sheer curtain. A child ran through the curtain and bumped into a pillar, which Frampton estimated at about seven feet and 100 pounds.

The pillar fell and struck Frampton on the left hand, before continuing downward and breaking a marble table in half. Frampton suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand and was forced out of the fight in perhaps the strangest fight-canceling injury in boxing history.

“I’m lucky it hit me in the hand, because it came over my shoulder and came a few inches from hitting me in the head,” Frampton said. “It could have been a lot different story.”

His hand is healed and Frampton is finally back. He’ll meet unbeaten Tyler McCreary in the co-main event of a Top Rank show Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at the Cosmopolitan. If he wins, he’s likely to fight Jamel Herring next year for Herring’s 130-pound WBO belt.

That’s a dream for Frampton for a number of reasons, but he’s been around long enough to know not to look past McCreary. He’s fought twice a year every year from 2013 through 2018 and had four fights in 2012, three in 2011 and five in 2010.

But the McCreary bout will be Frampton’s first of 2019, though he doesn’t expect it to negatively impact him.

“It’s not as if I’ve been idle for the year,” he said. “I did have the camp even though because of that freak incident the fight didn’t materialize. But I still got the benefit of that camp. I don’t think at this stage of my career my lack of a fight earlier in the year is going to impact me or affect my performance. I’m really champing at the bit to get back in there.”

The native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is 32 and coming down the stretch of an already brilliant career. He’s 26-2 with 15 KOs and has won world titles at super bantamweight and featherweight. Adding a world title at 130 would make him arguably the greatest Irish boxer of all-time, but it would also add a lot to his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Frampton already has quality of wins over Leo Santa Cruz, Scott Quigg and Nonito Donaire, and a win over Herring and the 130-pound belt that would come with it would do much for his candidacy.

He’s been among the sport’s most entertaining fighters, as well, and has never ducked away from a challenge. When he defeated Santa Cruz in 2016, he immediately gave him a rematch without hesitation. The wins over Santa Cruz and Quigg made him the 2016 Fighter of the Year as chosen by the Boxing Writers Association of America and Yahoo Sports.

“I’d love to make the Hall of Fame and it’s something I have thought a little bit about,” Frampton said. “At this point, I’m the only two-weight world champion from Northern Ireland and one of only three on the whole island of Ireland, the others being Steve Collins and Katie Taylor.

“But if I fought and beat Jamel Herring and became a three-weight world champion, I’d stand alone as the only Irish fighter to win a world title in three divisions against good opposition each time I won the title. I think if I did that, I’d be pretty close to the Hall of Fame right there.”

Frampton admits that boxing is in a good place and he has many potential intriguing fights ahead of him. If he beats McCreary and gets the Herring fight, it will open another door for him. Oscar Valdez, who is co-headlining Saturday’s card, hopes to meet WBC champion Miguel Berchelt for the super featherweight title next year.

Since all of the fighters are promoted by Top Rank, it would be easy to have the Herring-Frampton winner meet the Berchelt-Valdez winner for the unified title.

It’s the kind of thing that excites him about where his sport stands these days.

“It’s especially true if you look at the heavyweights,” Frampton said. “[Wladmir] Klitschko had a great run and he was very dominant, but it was a boring reign, nothing really to write home about. It was not that exciting, honestly. But we have four guys now who all have the aim of being No. 1 in their division and they’re confident enough in themselves that they want to fight each other. That’s what you want to see.

“There are a lot of good young fighters coming up and the promoters seem like they’re willing to work with each other more now than they had been to put on the big fights the fans want to see. That’s why I say I think boxing is in a pretty healthy place with a lot of good things going on.”

And if Frampton can avoid the decorative fixtures in the Cosmopolitan lobby this week, there are even more good things ahead for him.

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