In the documentary they made together, there are a number of images that could be referred to as cute and emotional. Given the nature of any family business, these images make clear the closeness of the people involved and how the McGuigans had opened up, encouraging Carl Frampton to come in and feel warm, fuzzy and cosy.
For Frampton those relationships with dad, Barry and his son, Shane are all too obvious in the BBC programme, Fight Game. The track down which both Barry McGuigan and Carl Frampton had gone, was similar. Born to the troubled area in the United Kingdom that had such an inner conflict it was referred to as THE Troubles, McGuigan Sr. and Frampton Jr. were blazing that trail by getting people from whatever part of the divide to support boxing. Their records were exemplary.
Fast forward a few months and Frampton tears himself away from that familial clutch. He starts an ill tempered legal action against his former sage and guide and we witness some bad blood spilling into online fora. For those of us who watched the documentary, it is hard to believe.
I have to admit to a flip flop attitude to Barry McGuigan. I was born in a protestant tradition in the West Coast of Scotland where our attitudes were ingrained and rather than knowing the background and his history I was guided by initial prejudice. I saw him as Irish and the Irish were to be battled against and not encouraged. I was ignorant and I was stupid. I was also very young.
Once I had put aside such childish things I got to hear and see the man’s fortitude and his integrity; though from afar and not close up. I once was coming through Heathrow Airport and there was the man himself giving time and attention to well wishers. I was a little star struck and felt unable to approach because it WAS Barry McGuigan!
His son, Shane, despite a fairly privileged background, literally fought for by his father, has, like Eddie Hearn, managed to bring himself out of the shadows of silver spoons, sound cultured and worldly wise but also make connections with people who have had none of that there privilege. His growth as a young trainer has been remarkable. You can imagine more hardened trainers who have had to fight to get approval for their gyms, fought local councils over their activities and endured years of suffering due to popular ambivalence over the sport feeling aggrieved that the McGuigan gym, due to a name has managed to thrive.
But I don’t get a sense of that as the name also carries enough weight in the sport to allow people to see past that.
But I am, also, hardly naïve.
The family McGuigan must have bad times. They must suffer stress like the rest of us and when they are feeling stressed, there shall be elements of their behaviour that, like the rest of us do not meet the standards expected.
So, when my compatriot, Josh Taylor, did a Frampton, and announced that he had split from the McGuigans, there was surprise but not a lot of it. Having seen the Frampton/McGuigan conflict already there appeared for some a feeling of well it’s a shock but not a surprise.
Taylor, quiet and unassuming at times, trying hard to be polite and a worthy champion held his tongue publicly before, at the beginning of this year, coming out with both barrels. In an interview with the Edinburgh Evening News he described how he was in a much better place with his new set up which has Top Rank, MTK Global and Ben Davison his team. He decided to go even further than just claiming he was in a better place, claiming, “There’s been no stress and thinking about other things so I can solely concentrate on my boxing. Training isn’t just the same hard grind every day, there’s technical sessions and they’re really enjoyable. Everything with Top Rank has also been great so far, no hiccups or anything like that.” As if needed, he expanded even more, claiming, “I left (Cyclone) because I wasn’t being treated right. I wasn’t being properly managed. It was a shambles. I know I’ve made the right decision and I am just looking forward now.”
Cyclone had previously released a statement and as you can imagine when a treasured adopted son makes a move away from the family nest it has its fair degree of hurt dripping from its pages. Son and trainer, Shane went further when questioned about it all, to Boxing Social, claiming that Taylors move was “a huge surprise and a killer blow. I feel a bit begrudged by it all.” Claiming that he never saw it coming, McGuigan clearly feels the hurt, continuing in the interview stating that, “As soon as I heard that, my heart sank. Mainly because of the effort and time that we had put into Josh. I felt we had managed him and trained him impeccably – 16 fights unbeaten, unified world champion, Ring magazine champion. … I’m annoyed that I’ve invested four-and-a-half years of my time and energy in someone who just doesn’t deserve it.”
You can clearly see that there is simply no way back for either side when things like that have been spoken. Or is there?
Boxing is a funny sport and who would have seen the link up between Derrick Chisora and David Haye after a fence had to be brought between them when they were in a press conference for their fight?
With the effects of COVID-19 being felt by the sport as much as any other, the possibility remains that some promoters shall not survive. Nor will their gyms.
Is it a likely future for the likes of the McGuigan’s and Cyclone? Will we see a reduction in the number of UK boxing promoters also have the effect of some big names being unable to plough out of the crisis? Will we see the likes of the smaller promoters fold rather than some who have begun to make a name for themselves? Whilst Eddie Hearn can literally organise a fight in his back garden and sell tickets for it, are there any more who can mange this for their fighters or will we see names that were important before become names that are footnotes in history books.
I have to take my prejudice out of the picture as I am a fellow Scot. I need to remember that the McGuigans – both of them have been an exceptional addition to the sport. I need to try and put the memory of looking at the fall out between Frank Warren and the legendary Ricky Burns out of sight; this is different. And we all need to hope that Taylor’s move works out and the McGuigans come back to continue their contribution. I have no idea if they are shambolic, but time will tell if we see their like again in the ring and on the next track down which they trundle…