“The fight has been talked about for four, four and a half years”, muses WBA super bantamweight champion Scott Quigg. “It’s been building and building, and to be honest we’re lucky to have each other and to be as good as we are, because that’s what’s built it to this point. This is… this is it.” Composed stuff from the man from Bury, England. Speaking on the Sky Sports TV series Behind the Ropes, Quigg has always interviewed well. He’s engaging, honest, and has a disarming charm that makes him very easy to listen to.
However, there is more to Quigg than initially meets the eye. Behind his upbeat demeanour is an extremely focused individual, evidenced by his huge efforts at the athletics track and in the Gallagher Gym in Bolton. Between clips of gruelling heavy bag workouts and sparring sessions, he reflects on his hunger and love for the sport. “People [ask me] ‘Do you sacrifice many things?’ I say ‘No. I wake up every morning doing something I want to do.’ I don’t sacrifice anything [to be a boxer]. The bigger sacrifice would be me not boxing”.
Just over 200 miles to the south, in McGuigan’s Gym in London, his opponent tells a very different story. IBF boss Carl Frampton is less forthcoming, and is frank when he comes to his experience of training under Shane McGuigan. “I wouldn’t say I enjoy [training]. I’d rather be doing something else right now.” McGuigan leads the interview, chatting casually about the time Carl’s mother gave her son a quick hug before he beat Kiko Martinez to win the title he now holds. “I don’t really… hug people”, shrugs Frampton. “I don’t remember the last time I hugged my ma. That’s just Irish people, they’re like that. They’re not… huggy”.
The atmosphere in the gym however, is jovial; the fighter wiggles in discomfort as a pal refreshes his ice bath, much to the delight of his stablemates, and cheers go up when McGuigan plays Michael Jackson‘s “Man in the Mirror” as the boxer admires his reflection after donning his fight-night shorts. At his gym in Battersea, the mood should rightly be positive; it has been a fantastic year for the nutritionist-turned-coach. As well as Frampton’s huge success, he has overseen the returns of David Haye and George Groves, both of whom came back with very convincing wins.
But success has also found a home with Quigg’s trainer, Joe Gallagher. “3 WORLD CHAMPIONS” (referring to current title holders Liam Smith, Anthony Crolla and Quigg), scrawled on a whiteboard in the gym where he coaches is testimony to this, with a long list of world title contenders, European champions, British champions and prospects also under his guardianship. He has been coaching for 23 years and recently became the first UK coach to win the Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year, an award worthy of considerable respect.
That respect is a little lacking between the two camps; a feisty press conference eventually came to boiling point over the issue of who-gets-which-changing-room, with both vying over the one reserved for the ‘champion’. “I’m the A-side here,” says Frampton. “It’s Frampton-Quigg. I come to the ring second. I’m entitled to that dressing room.” “This is my arena. I’m the home fighter,” retorts Quigg. “I’m in the home dressing room”.
All very petty. But don’t let that distract from what is sure to be a fantastic fight. As two undefeated world champions in their prime with styles that are sure to gel, we are being treated to a match that unlike some recent bouts is sure to deliver what it promises to. It’s an incredibly hard one to call, and many pundits and experts are truly stumped as to which way it will go.
A look at recent opponents doesn’t help much: Scott Quigg has looked impressive, but has labored a bit at times, the draw against Yoandris Salinas and some late-replacement opposition leaving some of us unsure if he has been truly tested at the top-level. Frampton has probably faced better opposition, but was knocked down twice in the first round against a willing but limited Alejandro Gonzalez Jr in his last fight. He took the belt home, but someone as observant and detailed as Joe Gallagher will have almost certainly seen something to exploit in that performance. Both men have shared the ring with Kiko Martinez (Frampton twice, Quigg once) and he has been beaten on all three occasions (although most recently and most notably by Quigg, who blitzed him inside two rounds).
Judging by various media sources, the boxing community is split right down the middle. Those who pick Frampton do so because of the punches he picks and his natural boxing ability, while those who favor Quigg believe his engine and work rate will see him out-perform his rival as the fight wears on (correction: IF the fight wears on). More tellingly though, most of us are happy to be proven wrong, and are instead content to enjoy the build up and the night itself. It’s been a fascinating journey to this point, and on Saturday night, that journey will meet a spectacular conclusion. Enjoy it, everyone.