It seemed like a good idea at the time. When Carl Frampton announced on twitter that he would be returning to his home city of Belfast to fight on July 29 I suggested to a few friends that we should attend. Four of my mates agreed and flights and accommodation were booked.
Several days later Andres Gutierrez was announced as the opponent and the fight would be an eliminator to contend for Gary Russell Jr's WBC featherweight title. The tickets for the event sold out in two minutes but luckily our party of five were among the fortunate 9000 who were successful the morning they went on sale.
Everything was in place, I was looking forward to returning to Northern Ireland's capital city and attending my second Carl Frampton fight.
An early start on Friday July 28 was required as the taxi was booked for 5am to get us to the airport in time for the early flight from Edinburgh to Belfast. Any feelings of fatigue were overcome by the general mood of excitement – the weekend was finally here, we were visiting a great city and there was the cherry on top of getting to experience world class boxing live.
Everything was going well. The 50 minute flight was uneventful and the hotel was perfect for our needs. It was over an early afternoon refreshment that the first piece of negative news reached me.
Carl Frampton had weighed in at 127lbs meaning he was 1lb over the featherweight limit. The fight was still on but the scale fail meant that Frampton, if victorious, would not become the number one contender for the WBC belt. There were some rumblings around the bars we were in that it was a deliberate ploy by Frampton and his team as they didn't want to become the mandatory for that particular title. This speculation and opinion didn't sit well with me, I had a slightly uneasy feeling but for the time being the fight was still going ahead and I focused on enjoying myself.
As the evening wore on our numbers dwindled. The early start had caught up with three of my travelling companions and around 10pm there were only two of us remaining exploring the city's nightlife. “Crosstown Traffic” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience was blaring out over the sound system as we walked into what would be our final pub of the evening. I had a good feeling about the place, small and busy but not too crowded. We enjoyed the hospitality and conversation with the locals – unfortunately it was while we were in this establishment that the news which shaped the rest of the weekend broke.
I hadn't been diligently checking my twitter feed but I did look at my phone around 11pm and saw a few notifications. A friend from home had tweeted me a link from the BBC Sport website which carried the headline “Frampton Fight Off After Andres Gutierrez is Injured Slipping in Shower.”
I quickly scanned the short article, absorbing the details of the Mexican boxer's shower accident which left him with cuts to his chin and nose along with bad damage to two of his teeth and a suspected concussion. The article also informed me that due to the cancellation of the main even the rest of the card would no longer be going ahead.
The word was spreading as before long it seemed that everyone in the bar was discussing this subject. Some kind words were offered to us as locals expressed their apologies after learning we had journeyed from Scotland for the boxing. As well as sympathy, conspiracy theories were starting to circle. Did Frampton's earlier weigh-in failure have something to do with this? Was it a genuine injury (at this point the only pictorial evidence was a cut to Gutierrez's chin) or had team Frampton been made a more attractive offer to fight one of the other title holders in a couple of months time?
After a while some more pictures emerged and the injuries to Gutierrez seemed genuine. A report in Saturday's Belfast Telegraph newspaper revealed that Andres had asked for a dentist to remove his damaged teeth so the fight could go ahead. This was declined by the British Boxing Board of Control's doctor who ultimately made the decision not to clear Gutierrez to fight on grounds of safety. Credit to Gutierrez for bravery but it seems like the correct decision was made.
Getting back to Friday evening though I still was annoyed that the entire card was now off and we would have no professional boxing to watch the following evening. Perhaps someone who understands the nuts and bolts of the business side of boxing better that I do can explain in the comments section why this decision was made. I would've been happy to go along and watch the scheduled undercard action. I tweeted Cyclone Promotions for an explanation but have not heard back and don't expect I will.
The following statement appeared on the promoter's website and various social media outlets: “Cyclone Promotions and SSE Arena regret to announce that the ‘Return Of The Jackal' event has been cancelled due to an accident to Andres Gutierrez. It is hoped that the event will be rescheduled but ticket holders are advised to retain their tickets and contact point of purchase for further information. We very much regret the inconvenience caused.”
Annoyed as I was it was clear that the only thing to do was to accept this for what it was and continue to enjoy the hospitality of our host city for the rest of the weekend. After a few tweets venting my disappointment (this actually did help) I began to think about this with the mindset of the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a disaster. Nothing catastrophic had happened and we still had the chance to enjoy a good weekend in Belfast.
As we closed out the night with a nightcap or three I decided to wait until more information was available before firmly throwing my weight behind any of the numerous theories or rumours which were circulating. What Carl Frampton does next will shape my overall view of the weekend's events. If, as has been mentioned, the Gutierrez fight and that same card is rescheduled for sometime in October then I will settle for that. If this doesn't happen then it could look like something not quite above board had happened behind the scenes. With this being boxing it will probably just remain a grey area forever with only those select few in the know ever knowing the whole truth.
I'm sorry that this Monday submission to NY FIGHTS is not a fight report for you to read but if it is any consolation we did enjoy the rest of our time in Belfast. The compact layout means everything is well within walking distance and it was excellent spending time there with good friends. The locals were friendly and despite there not being a boxing card to attend there was still plenty chatter around town about the sweet science. It really is a boxing mad city.
Although I was pleased to be returning home yesterday to my loving family a small part of me was sad to be leaving Belfast as the bus was taking us to the airport. Despite the boxing being taken away at the last minute my feelings of fondness for the city are still very much the same. As was mentioned to me by more than one person – there are worse places than Belfast to spend a lost weekend. Having experienced that first hand I can confirm that this is true; it was still a good idea to make the trip and I can't wait to return.