WATCH: 'It hit us hard, it was just surreal' - Carl and Christine Frampton say scenes in Kenya 'will stick with them'
- Carl and Christine Frampton say Kenya trip 'will stick with them'
- 'People here in Ireland think they have problems but until you see a situation like that your problems aren't real problems' - Carl Frampton
- '2017 was not a brilliant year [in my career]' - boxer is hoping 2018 will be a world title year
- Possibility of third bout between Frampton and Santa Cruz
It's a long way from Tiger's Bay in Belfast to north Kenya and it is a trip Carl and Christine Frampton say has changed their perspective on the world.
The 30-year-old boxer has had what he describes as a largely "disastrous" 2017 but a trip to raise awareness for Trocaire's 2017 Christmas appeal has enabled him to put his difficult 12 months in a new light.
Speaking exclusively to Independent.ie, Carl says it was a trip that opened their eyes and described how some scenes were difficult for both himself and his wife to witness.
"It was an amazing experience," Carl said.
"I had never been, it was the first time on the continent of Africa for both me and Christine.
"When we arrived in the Turkana region the first thing we saw was we were brought into a room with a lady who had HIV and she was breastfeeding her baby who was severely malnourished.
"The baby was eight months old and weighed only nine pounds. To put that in perspective, there are babies being born heavier than that in other parts of the world.
"She had another toddler with her who was also HIV positive but the baby, because of the medication that Trocaire had been supplying to the medical centre and that was given to both the baby and the mother, the baby hadn't contracted HIV.
"With the medication there is a 99.9pc chance the baby wouldn't contract HIV even though it was breastfeeding.
"That was the first thing and it really hit home seeing that wee baby. It was just surreal."
He said one particular incident in an area where food was being distributed will "stick with him".
"The toddler we had seen earlier that had HIV, about three years old, begged for this food, just begged. He gave her one package and I never seen such joy in my life. That is something that will stick with me."
"It hit us hard. Christine is an emotional person, I am too, but when you have your own kids especially, things are more difficult. She was crying."
Christine was approached by Trocaire's David O'Hare about making the trip to the Turkana region of Kenya to see the work they do on the ground.
According to Trocaire, in Kenya, and its neighbouring regions, over 3 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. And that number is expected to rise sharply as the effects of prolonged, devastating drought continue to take a massive toll.
As a result, more than half million children under 5 are now suffering from severe malnutrition in Kenya alone.
The trip comes at the end of what the boxer himself describes as "not a brilliant year [in my career] but certainly it ended better than it started and I am hoping that 2018 is going to be another big year for me."
Frampton began the year with a defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas in March, losing his WBA featherweight title.
A fight in the summer in Belfast fell through after his opponent injured himself the night before the bout and then he split with his long-time management team led by Barry McGuigan, a split that is now in a legal dispute.
Frampton is now being trained by Jamie Moore in Manchester and the Jackal sounds like he has rediscovered his love of boxing since joining the new camp.
"We train hard, and it is a camp full of pro boxers, I have quality all around me. We are all bouncing off each other. There are no clowns in the gym, everyone is down to earth.
"We take the piss out of each other when we get the chance but when it is time to get serious, we get serious.
"I am enjoying the whole environment. I haven't for years looked forward to camps. I have always spoken about retirement and how I can't wait to 'hang em up' but now I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and I look forward to heading to the gym.
"That hasn't been happening for a long time. It is just a different environment for me and one I am really enjoying."
"Boxing is the hardest game in the world and if you are not enjoying it is going to be twice as hard. You need to be enjoying it while you can, and I am at the minute."
Carl and Christine have two children, a seven-year-old girl and a three -year-old boy, and he says another stop on the Kenya trip, to a centre that rescued exploited children, made them realise how different things are for some children in the developing world.
"People here in Ireland think they have problems but until you see a situation like that your problems aren't real problems.
"There were 220 children there who had been taken off the streets. They were being fed, they were being clothed, looked after educated, and they were full of joy. All of them, they were dancing for us.
"They were fighting over who was going to hold mine and Christine's hand. Just full of joy and optimism.
"A social worker in the place, she had been brought in at [the age of] 10 after being prostituted for food. Now she was helping other kids in similar situations.
"The kids there were aged from 7 to 16. My wee girl is seven and you wouldn't even let her out on the street without someone with her."
The couple also visited Nukuru in Nairobi, the largest slum in Africa which is home to an astonishing 900,000 people.
"I've never seen poverty like it in my life," Carl says. "It was full of open waste, no toilets, everyone living in tin hunts. Litter all over the place. People all over the place trying to get anything they can get their hands on. Maybe make a dollar a day if lucky.
"It was another eye opener. I don't think you can set yourself up for something like that until you actually see it, just surreal.
"Just the friendliest of people living in dire conditions and squalor.
"I also went to a boxing club in Nukuru but really it was a tin hut with a bit of carpet on the floor. Between 60 or 70 kids they had two pairs of gloves between them and one set of pads.
"It something as simple as that gave the kids a wee bit of optimism.
"Of course it changes your perspective on the world. We came home and saw our kids and they were having a wee fight over not sharing chocolates. When you see what is going on in the world it is very, very sad."
After returning to winning ways with a victory over Horacio Garcia last month at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Carl is now looking forward to building on that win and regaining his world title next year.
Asked about 2017, Carl told Independent.ie "Up until my last fight it was probably disastrous but that changed after the win. I linked up with a completely new team and I have finished the year with a win.
"He was very big, very strong. I don't want to fight a mug. I wanted to fight a good opponent and I did that. There was no point me coming back after a bad year and fighting a knockover so he pushed me hard.
"I know the mistakes that I made so they'll be sorted out for the next fight. I am happy enough with the performance considering the year I had.
"I believe that fight is going to benefit me for next year," he adds.
If all goes to plan, 2018 could see Carl fulfil a lifelong ambition, a title fight at Windsor Park.
"I want to win a world title back in 2018. With the new team I believe we can bring big names to Belfast and Windsor Park and I think it is going to happen in the summer time.
"I'll have a fight in the middle some time, March or April, and if that is for a world title I will be more than ready.
"But if not I'll be happy to wait until the summer and win the world title at Windsor park. That would be very, very special.
And when asked if the summer foe would be Santa Cruz, Carl sounded positive if not definite that we may see a third bout between the two fighters.
"There is more chance than there has ever been with the backing of BT. Money talks in this sport and BT have a lot of it.
"Santa Cruz is a brave guy and he'll fight anyone anywhere but he is getting well paid to fight guys in the States who are not great and not at the level I am so you'll need to entice him out of America with a big offer.
"That's doable. However, if it is not Santa Cruz but another world champion I'll be happy."
However, for now Carl has a more immediate goal, to get everyone to give what they can to Trocaire this Christmas.
"Some people may think that a couple of quid isn't going to change things but it it will feed a family for a day. Whatever you have, however much you can afford to help I would urge you to do it because seeing first hand what is needed and what the donations can do is amazing. These people are so grateful and in dire, dire need for it."