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Carl Frampton has world at his feet golden future ahead for king of the ring

Carl’s fairytale Stateside triumph sees him makes history as first Northern Ireland boxer to capture world titles in two different weight categories

By Adrian Rutherford

Carl Frampton could have punched his way to a $10m fortune after writing his name into sporting folklore with a fairytale of New York triumph.

He defeated Leo Santa Cruz to become the first Northern Ireland boxer to win a world title in two weight divisions.

Hundreds of local fans were Stateside to roar Frampton to glory in a Brooklyn blockbuster, joined by a cast of celebrity A-listers.

Rory McIlroy was ringside at the Barclays Center, with Frank and Christine Lampard and Michael O'Neill also among the 9,000-strong crowd.

Back home thousands more stayed up through the night to watch the fight on television.

Yesterday plans were being made for a huge welcome home party ahead of Frampton's triumphant return.

Meanwhile, the champ was toasting his victory with jubilant fans. He staged a post-fight bash at Annie Moore's Bar in Manhattan, signing autographs and posing for selfies.

"I'm just a normal, working-class guy who can fight a wee bit - that's it," he said.

Earlier, donning a Northern Ireland shirt, Frampton proudly held his belt aloft outside his New York hotel.

It followed a night of high drama which ended in him overcoming the odds to defeat the previously unbeaten Santa Cruz.

The 29-year-old, from Tiger's Bay, was declared the clear winner by two of the judges, with the third scoring it a draw.

Wife Christine, children Carla and Rossa, and parents Craig and Flo were there to see him bask in triumph.

Frampton is now set for a hero's return to Belfast.

And he is also in line for a massive windfall, with experts predicting that he could net millions on the back of beating Santa Cruz.

One industry source estimated he has earned £2m to date, and yesterday's win could net a further £800,000 in prize money and other spin-offs.

The growth of Brand Frampton Stateside, coupled with more lucrative fights, could see his income soar by a further $10m over the next few years.

Yesterday's victory - sealed shortly before 5am UK time - was his first as a professional at featherweight.

He had moved up a division after unifying the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight titles by beating Scott Quigg in February. The latest victory saw him claim the belt his manager Barry McGuigan won in 1985.

Asked if it was a night he had dreamt of, Frampton said: "You do when you're a kid - the dream was always to be a world champion, and once you do that you start having new dreams.

"I reached my goal of becoming a world champion and then I wanted to become a two-weight world champion. It's just going up and up."

McGuigan, meanwhile, hailed it as the greatest night of Frampton's career.

"I genuinely believe this kid will go on to be the greatest Irish fighter there's ever been," he said.

"Tonight was the greatest night of his life. It was a spectacular performance."

Having failed to make the cut at the US PGA, McIlroy dashed to Brooklyn to be ringside for the fight.

Afterwards, the golf star hailed Frampton as "a fantastic ambassador".

"I think you could see in the arena the support that Carl had, not just from everyone who came from Northern Ireland, but the Americans really took to him as well," McIlroy said.

"What a fantastic fight. To go in there and stand toe to toe with Santa Cruz was unbelievable. I don't think I've been as nervous at a sporting event in my life."

In a joint statement, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness hailed a "true champion".

"His relentless determination and incredible sacrifice to be the best he possibly can be has now deservedly made him champion at two different weight classes", they said.

While Frampton admitted the bright lights of the Big Apple were a major draw, he pledged to remain true to his roots by continuing to compete regularly in his native Ulster.

Frampton has boxed six times at the Odyssey Arena, once at the Titanic Quarter, and dreams of appearing at Windsor Park, where he is a regular visitor.

"I want to fight here (in the USA) and I want to fight at home. I'm a Belfast boy and I love my fans back home," the champion said.

Belfast Telegraph

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