Belfast Telegraph

Carl Frampton: A Titanic battle against Kiko Martinez ends in dreamland for star Frampton

Hero Carl lands title as daughter sleeps ringside

By Ivan Little

It may have been the crowning glory of her father's boxing career, but little Carla Frampton managed to sleep through his night of triumph, blissfully undisturbed even by the deafening roar that greeted his acclamation as the champion of the world on what was arguably the most sensational sporting occasion ever seen in Belfast.

Unintentionally using singularly appropriate boxing jargon after the judges' unanimous decision in favour of her fearless husband, Christine Frampton said that three-year-old Carla was "out for the count".

And all around her the other 15,999 Protestant and Catholic fight fans exploded in an ear-splitting and virtually unprecedented show of sporting unity in Belfast as the city's new hero fulfilled his ambition of becoming the King of the Ring.

But Carl's sleeping beauty robbed her doting Dad of his other dream of holding her aloft after he conquered the world in the purpose-built arena on the Titanic slipways.

Instead, he tenderly cradled her in his arms after he'd wrestled the world title from brave Spaniard Kiko Martinez and gently kissed his still slumbering daughter who was wrapped in a blanket and wore pink ear muffs "because she doesn't like loud noises".

Christine, who is expecting a second child soon, said: "Carla fell asleep just before Carl came into the ring, and she never woke up on her special night."

Christine had covered her own face with her hands after she clambered into the ring at the final bell, but she insisted she was only worried about her husband and not about what everyone knew could only be one outcome of the IBF super bantamweight clash.

She told me outside the ring: "I was upset when I saw how badly his face was marked and bruised. That's why I turned away."

Carl's jubilant father Craig had mouthed to her, "He's won, he's won" as they waited for Scottish master of ceremonies, Craig Stephen, to announce the inevitable. But Christine said: "That's not why I was worried. Besides, I haven't a clue about boxing. I never know who's won or lost a round."

But like Christine, Craig and his wife Flo were ecstatic about the 12-round victory of their modest son, who had been led into the ring by former Ulster rugby giant Stephen Ferris with a nod to Mrs Frampton – a song from Florence and the Machine.

Mr Frampton said: "It was a fantastic performance. I knew he had won it." From ringside, a close-to-tears Carl, who apologised for kicking off with Kiko at the weigh-in the day before, told his adoring fans: "You are the best supporters in the world."

Frampton's manager Barry McGuigan, who was a unifying force for Protestants and Catholics in Belfast in his heyday 30 years ago, said that Carl was twice the fighter he had been, and he predicted lucrative paydays ahead for his superstar boxer, who became the second world-beater to be launched from the Titanic slipways.

But unlike the doomed Harland and Wolff liner a century earlier and the first movie made about it, the fearsome Frampton had a night to remember for all the right reasons on the Queen's Road, which had not seen so many feet on it since those halcyon days of the shipyard.

In 90 countries around the world millions watched as, in the shadows of Belfast's gigantic cranes with the stirring Biblical names, the city's littlest legend completed his own David versus Goliath journey to make himself one of the city's most marketable exports since the heyday of H&W.

Just a mile or so as the crow flies from Carl's humble beginnings in Tigers Bay, the man they call the Jackal made a jackass of the doubters who thought he couldn't repeat his win of 18 months ago over Martinez, who picked up a badly cut eye as well as a half-million pound pay cheque – twice the purse of the home fighter.

Ironically, just like the Titanic and the iceberg, Martinez could see the danger coming in the form of a vicious Frampton right in the fifth, but he could do nothing to get out of its way and he sank to the floor – a Martinez shaken and stirred.

But the engine room inside the bloodied little warrior from Alicante was soon fired up again despite a partisan home support leaping to their feet singing Stand Up For the Ulsterman before they were promptly told to sit down again by stewards.

The atmosphere at the open air arena – nicknamed the Carl-oseum – was electrifying. The noise would have raised the roof if there'd been one. The weather, the passion and Frampton's flying fists had ensured that Saturday night really was alright for fighting in Belfast, where the unspoken fears of police – unspoken in public at any rate – that there could be trouble from loyalist and republican paramilitaries in the £300,000 stadium thankfully didn't materialise.

Just before the fight, security teams did go into the crowd followed by two police officers, but the tensions quickly calmed down.

Belfast's Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon hailed Frampton as the city's modern-day Superman: "The noise, the colour and the fervour sent a shiver down my spine, and we saw a magnificent performance from a boxer who's a real role model for our city."

Critics had questioned why Belfast City Council sponsored the fight, which will generate huge profits from ticket sales, advertising rights and TV fees.

But the first citizen, the only councillor to receive a free ticket counter-punched: "It was £50,000 well spent. The fight has put Belfast on the map again. Everyone has been a winner and the city is on a real high"

East Belfast Assemblyman, former boxer and dickey-bowed MC Sammy Douglas, defended the decision by the Stormont Executive to float the Titanic showdown with a half-million pound cash injection.

He said: "It makes perfect sense. Not only do we get publicity that you couldn't buy, but bringing together 16,000 fans from both sides of the community tells its own story"

The boos that greeted Craig Stephen's mention of the Executive's name during his thanks for the sponsors maybe sent out another signal. But there was no disputing Frampton's unifying message. That was crystal clear from early morning as Belfast woke up to Frampton fever with only one name on the city's lips. And it wasn't Kiko.

In Tigers Bay, Frampton's former neighbours were able to catch a glimpse of the huge arena across the river where they knew their boy would write his name into the boxing history books. Proof, if any were needed, about the impact his success has had on the area was seen with a well-used punch-bag hanging in the garden of a house in Upper Canning Street, close to where he grew up.

From early afternoon, bars in Tigers Bay and in the centre of Belfast were buzzing with anticipation and ringing tills.

Inside Titanic Belfast, hundreds of guests attended lavish corporate hospitality soirees, and the rumour spread faster than a Frampton jab that David Cameron was there. But it turned out that was a hoax concocted by boxer and prankster Paddy Barnes.

Afterwards, the Titanic partying went on long into the night, but Carla Frampton was probably like her dad – in dreamland.

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