Carl Frampton retired in a crowdless arena Dubai on Saturday night after failing to make history in his bid to become the first fighter from Ireland to win world titles in three weight divisions. The popular Tigers Bay fighter was stopped by Jamel Herring, who retained his World Boxing Organisation super featherweight title.
Frampton was down in the fifth round and rocked onto his back from a powerful left uppercut in the next round in a fight that has been a year in the making due to Covid-19 restrictions and injuries.
The end came 1 minute 40 seconds into the sixth round, a peach of a left uppercut from Herring stopping Frampton in his tracks and sending him to the canvas. Although Frampton regained his feet and fought back proudly, he looked out on his feet, and the towel came in from trainer Jamie Moore in the corner to save him from punishment.
In truth, while Frampton gave his all, Herring bossed the contest magnificently.
"I'm deeply upset," said a clearly emotional 34-year-old Frampton, interviewed in the ring afterwards. "I want to dedicate the fight to old trainer Billy McKee, who passed away recently, and my whole career to my wife and my kids. I said I would retire if I did not win tonight, and I am retiring. I really struggled to get inside, he was sharp shooting from a distance. I was beaten by the better man."
Herring said he had "always been a fan" and that "it was an honour" to share the ring with the Belfast fighter who ends his career with a record of 28 victories, and three defeats, a man who unified world titles at super bantamweight with championship titles over Spaniard Kiko Martinez and Mancunian Scott Quigg. He then went on to claim the WBA featherweight crown against the brilliant Mexican Leo Santa Cruz,all under manager Barry McGuigan and his son and trainer Shane McGuigan, before joining forces with Moore. It was a career in which Frampton also helped unify the sectarian divide in his hometown.
In this, his 31st contest, stepping up to the 130lb weight limit against the former US Marine Herring, Frampton needed to close the distance quickly, given the height and reach advantages of the much taller champion, use his timing and be elusive against the skilled, rangy southpaw. But Herring showed in the opening round - a feeling out process for both fighters - just how difficult a night lay ahead.
Frampton needed to push Herring out of his rhythm, but the early rounds were bossed effectively by the taller defending champion. Frampton had momentary success in the fourth, his best round, as the two fighters set about each other, Herring cut by the right eyelid, claret decorating his cheek. Still, though, the American gave as good as he got in the round.
Frampton's left hooks and body shots were effective in the fifth, until the Irishman was floored walking onto a short left as Herring grew in confidence, finishing his assignment in the Middle East in the next round, with Frampton out on his feet.
Herring moved his career record to 23 wins, two defeats. Frampton ends his career as the only Irish fighter apart from Steve Collins and Katie Taylor to have won titles in two divisions.