Belfast Telegraph

Religion never issue for Carl Frampton who began boxing in Belfast's Catholic clubs

By Staff Reporter

Carl Frampton has said that the sectarianism that blighted much of Belfast as he grew up was absent from the world of boxing.

The two-weight world champion, who grew up in the loyalist Tiger's Bay area of north Belfast, has spoken of his early years fighting in what he viewed as staunch republican places, such as the Felons Club in the city's west.

Frampton, who started out at Midland Amateur Boxing Club, also revealed that while he spent his time training and in the ring, his pals were becoming embroiled in paramilitary organisations.

In an interview that appeared in yesterday's Sunday Times just hours before he was due to jet off to Las Vegas ahead of his eagerly-awaited rematch with Leo Santa Cruz at the end of the month, he said: "As an amateur I fought in the Felons Club on Andersonstown Road which we saw as an IRA club.

"Until I got a bit older, most of the Catholic guys wouldn't have known I was a Protestant, didn't come into it.

"In the ring there is always a respect, isn't there? It's a strange game, boxing, you go in there trying to hurt the other guy, trying to knock him out, that is how brutal it is but there's always a mutual respect.

"To be honest, boxing in Northern Ireland is a Catholic sport.

"In Belfast alone there is probably 25 clubs and something like 20 are Catholic.

"Our club had good relations with Catholic clubs and when I was a kid nothing was ever really said."

Frampton added: "Tiger's Bay is like 100% loyalist. The next housing estate across was the New Lodge, which was 100% republican, IRA, whatever.

"My street was the closest street in the loyalist estate to the New Lodge. So I was right on the interface, it's where I grew up.

"It wasn't a bad childhood, I've seen a bit of trouble, rioting and stuff. There were friends of mine who would have joined the paramilitaries. That is what happened being from that area."

The sporting hero, who has won all 23 of his professional bouts, also opened up about his personal life, paying tribute to his wife, Christine.

The couple met at a nightclub in Portrush and Frampton admitted they were both "probably the worse for wear" at the time.

"I never really had any kind of serious relationship before her," he said.

"There was something different about her. She was a good girl, she was funny, she was good looking and I was kind of like, 'I don't know why she is interested in me'.

"Now, she's a brilliant wife, brilliant mother to our kids," he added.

Frampton is due to head to the US today to continue preparations to defend his WBA world featherweight title against Mexican Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand on January 28.

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