Meet the Welshmen who almost ended Frampton-Quigg before it began

Meet the Welshmen who almost ended Frampton-Quigg before it began

As the full power of Sky Sports Box Office’s hype machine again roars in to fifth gear, the latest endeavor is unlikely to make a pit stop for two Welshman who threatened to derail its journey to a lucrative final destination.

It is fight week for Belfast’s Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton (21-0, 14KO) and Bury’s Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23KO), who will meet at a sold out pay-per-view event for their respective IBF and WBA ‘Super’ belts at the Manchester Arena.

After four months of an intense promotional push and punishing training camps, the super-bantamweights will end an agonising five-year long wait to lock horns… but it twice came close to never getting started. Don’t expect that to be featured in the outbreak of viral videos that flood social media websites, the ones that portray the protagonists as untouchable super-humans.

The quick clips will conveniently skip the forgotten chapters that include Cefn Fforest’s Robbie Turley and Cwmbran’s Jamie Arthur, when both Welshmen showed that Frampton and Quigg are mortal, too.

Frampton’s expected to bring an army of supporters across the Irish Sea on Saturday but long before he established one of world boxing’s most loyal fan bases, Turley had some success in spoiling the Sky Sports debut party. The humid summer night in June 2011 was supposed to be a mismatch, made for ‘Brick Fists’ – as he was then known – to explode on the scene by claiming the Celtic strap in a bout that doubled up as a British title eliminator. It was far from that.

Turley, who had other ideas, remembered: “First of all, they told me I wasn’t allowed to come out to music and I told them I wouldn’t go out there without it. I’d sold a lot of tickets on short notice and I wasn’t going to be treated like meat for the lion.

“Then they allowed music but I wasn’t allowed on the platform, they pushed me out from behind a curtain because they thought I was a little bum. I stood there and decided that he wasn’t having it easy, not at all.”

Barry McGuigan, Frampton’s manager and then television pundit, predicted a routine stoppage in Cardiff but when Frampton ploughed forward, he found that tagging the slippery St Joseph’s switch-hitter wouldn’t be straightforward. Initially, Frampton seized the front foot vantage point, showing little respect for Turley, who responded in an unorthodox fashion, swinging effective counters out of the visitor’s eye line. Frampton’s tactics were misjudged and he suffered a cut in round four.

After the fifth session of the ten rounder, there was an argument that Turley was level. Even in the rounds that Turley lost, Frampton was made to work hard. That was partly due to Turley’s sheer size advantage, utilised when Frampton stood too close. Unknown to the Ulsterman’s team, Turley had been a lightweight (60KG) as an amateur when Frampton was at flyweight (52KG).

Reflecting on the unexpected position he was in at the halfway mark, Turley said: “I went out there and there were times in the fight when he was feeling sorry for himself. I don’t care what anyone says, I know because I was in the ring. When I cut him and the referee said it was a punch, I could see it in his eyes. It’s a long time ago though, he’s gone on to become a great fighter since then.”

Realising the severity of the situation, Frampton did what he needed to do to nudge himself ahead – adapt. Forced or not, Frampton spent the remaining rounds on the back foot, smartly scoring with clean counters. It led to Turley receiving a count, something that he still disputes but he does warn Quigg of Frampton’s power.

He said: “I got up, smiling at the referee and my hands were up in the air but he carried on counting. One thing I’ve got is a good chin. I’ve only been put down properly once in 100 fights as an amateur and professional. He’s a big puncher but a lot of the shots he hit me with, I rolled them and rode them to take the force off.

“Quigg’s a different style, though – he’ll come right at Frampton and might take the shots flush. I think the amateur pedigree is going to play in Frampton’s favour a lot, he went in with the best in the world as an amateur, that’s where Quigg might struggle. Quigg’s immensely strong but he hasn’t got the skills Frampton’s got and he might walk on to them.”

The aftermath involved Frampton switching trainers, leaving the full-time guidance of Gerry Storey to spend more time with Shane McGuigan. There was no disputing the result, a unanimous decision points victory for Frampton and it’s a notion that Turley agrees with, kind of.

He said: “I definitely held my own and I thought the scorecards were wider than they should’ve been. I was proud to say that for a while; I’d done better than anyone had against him and he’s gone on to be a good world champion.”

There was a lot more controversy when Arthur faced Quigg eight months later in Bolton. Long before Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn sang the praises of Quigg, it was Manchester legend Ricky Hatton who promoted Quigg and they came close to slipping up when they targeted Arthur. The 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medallist didn’t play the part of a game but out-gunned opponent.

Arthur recalled: “They chose me to be just an opponent for them and they didn’t expect me to go there and put up much of a performance. They thought I was someone they’d blow out. I prepared well, my mind was right and I feel like I shocked a lot of people.”

Heading in to the voluntary defence of the Lord Lonsdale British title, Wales’ rejuvenated veteran entered the bout fresh after a break and with an edge of more experience at championship level. Quigg was still quite green, though he had undeniably showed flashed of fearsome form and that was reflected in the action that unfolded.

It was a tense opening and it suited Arthur, who used his reach advantage to frustrate the champion. Quigg was still gelling with new trainer Joe Gallagher and that might’ve explained his overly cautious approach. Having taken up the sport late, Quigg was still learning on the job and mid-or-long range exchanges were no-mans-land for him.

The miscalculation unraveled in the fourth round when Arthur stepped in with a solid left straight. The highly touted prospect sprawled to the floor but bounced up as soon as he fell. Still wary and aware that he hadn’t recovered, Quigg wisely opted to go back down and take a knee until the referee’s count reached eight. Could Frampton repeat the feat to floor his foe or go one step further and stop him? Arthur isn’t sure.

He said: “Frampton has the ability to counter over the top and if he does, we’ll see Quigg’s ability to hold a shot. Quigg’s chin hasn’t been tested since I fought him. He has been in with big punches like Kiko Martinez but that was over before it began. He has such a tight guard; he takes a lot shots on his arms and shoulders. Plus, whenever someone is very fit like Quigg, you have to hit them very clean to put them away for good.”

Arthur was tearing up the script and Quigg had reason to panic but to his credit, he composed himself and took time to recover. Meanwhile, Arthur picked up cuts on both eyes, unclear if they came courtesy of punches or not, and Quigg’s momentum grew as he closed the distance.

The fight was still in the balance as they entered the final few rounds and Arthur certainly owned a case to say he was leading it, though his grip was slightly slipping away. Quigg produced his trademark left hook to the body, finding room around the sides and it almost folded the visitor. Somehow remaining upright, Arthur clearly winced and when he tried to breathe in, was forced in to a 360 turn.

Smelling blood, Quigg ran in and before Arthur could dodge the follow up attack, referee Mark Green prematurely jumped in to wave it off, to the anger of Arthur’s corner. Hatton would later promise a rematch but it didn’t happen and Quigg hasn’t made the same mistakes since. How hard is it to hold off Quigg? Very hard, explains Arthur.

“For the first five rounds, my boxing was beautiful and I was able to move but as with any championship fight, you will slow down a little bit. It’s a long time to stay on your toes and keep moving. He had a good corner with Joe Gallagher, they’re always looking for openings and to sustain boxing at range is hard work against someone like Scott Quigg.

“Quigg’s very accurate, that’s the thing. When he’s up close, he finds the space and gets to the floating ribs. When you take a shot there, it’s hard to hold for anyone. Most of Quigg’s stoppages are body shots, he gets himself in the right position to do that because he’s smarter than people realise.”

It’s not often that two-world class and unbeaten boxers from the domestic scene face each other whilst still in their prime years. For that, they will deservedly receive multi-million pound paydays not seen amongst the lower weights in Europe since a certain ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed flattened his fellow featherweights for fun. However, when Arthur tackled the task, he left the ring expecting his opponent to become a star.

“After I boxed him, I knew he was good. I wasn’t bad either and I wonder what would’ve happened if I had his chances. I knew he was class but he’s showed since how high that class is – right up there.”

Whoever prevails victorious will still have another obstacle to overcome before recognition as the best, that being the crafty Cuban puzzle – Guillermo Rigondeaux. Should Frampton or Quigg decide to gamble against the world’s greatest current 122lb fighter, they’ll find themselves in a similar position that Arthur and Turley fought them from. Would the Welshmen encourage Quigg or Frampton to embrace or avoid the underdog label against ‘El Chacal’? Arthur wouldn’t.

He said: “Stay away from Rigondeaux. He’s just an amazing, technical, defensive genius but he can bang, as well. I think that Frampton or Quigg don’t have a chance of beating Rigondeaux, he’s the best super-bantamweight in the world and they’d be big underdogs.”

The other one would though. Turley said: “I think Frampton’s the man, I do. Personally, I’ve always thought he’s in a different league but it’s getting nearer now and it’s almost time to find out. If Frampton beats Quigg, and I think he will, he’ll feel on fire. So, why not fight Rigondeaux?”

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