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Carl Frampton is Lord of the ring and selfie king

Star takes time out with fans as preparations made for homecoming party

By Allan Preston

A hero's homecoming is being planned for history-making champion Carl Frampton, who fans are hailing the greatest Northern Irish boxer of all time.

Yesterday, the Department for Communities said it was "currently considering how it can best recognise Carl Frampton's achievements on Saturday night", with further details to be revealed in the near future.

First Minister Arlene Foster said Stormont "will certainly want to recognise" Frampton's achievement in becoming the first person from Northern Ireland to be world champion in two weight categories.

"He is a world champion, and I think it is absolutely right to recognise it as such," she added.

Northern Ireland fans who travelled to see the Jackal's historic featherweight victory against Leo Santa Cruz in New York at the weekend have called him the greatest, and were stunned to be able to party the night away with him in person.

Declan O'Brien (26), from Ballygally, said fans gave him a rapturous reception. "The message had filtered through that he was booking out this bar on 41st street, Annie Moore's, basically just to buy everybody a pint for coming out," he added.

"He came in and got a great reception, a good cheer. He sat down and got some food and then did photos with everybody.

"I said to him, 'How are you feeling?' He said, 'I'm absolutely wrecked'. I thought, 'Fair enough, lad, I'll leave you to it'. I didn't bother him too much after that.

"In the arena, everybody around us was saying it was so close and nobody could tell. It was ridiculous.

"I was out with ones from Belfast - they all knew him well. In the row in front of us, a bunch of boys from New York who didn't know him were saying, 'Oh, he can take a punch'. I think he got the respect of a lot of New York boxing fans as well as winning."

Liam Grimley (39), from Downpatrick, added: "I think that he's definitely up there with Barry McGuigan now - he's one of the greatest and there's no stopping him. Where does he go next?

"In the stadium, the atmosphere was amazing. The Mexican fans were singing, but the Northern Ireland fans drowned them out. We were in the party afterwards. I was standing beside Carl Frampton and one of the bar staff came over and Carl asked, 'You still have my credit card? Stick another two on that'. But I don't know if that was two hundred or thousand."

Liam said Carl's manager, Barry McGuigan, took an hour to get from the door to where his boxer was. "Everyone was singing and shouting - Carl was too," he explained. "It was an amazing atmosphere, and it was great to be part of it."

Clive O'Neill (39), from Newtownards, said: "It was the experience of a lifetime, watching history in the making. He put himself in the history books and he will be remembered now as the best boxer we've ever seen from this country."

While he skipped the late-night party, Clive got to meet Frampton and his opponent at Friday's weigh-in, and he got his dream selfie when the fighters agreed to pose in his favourite hat. "I have a silly Pokemon hat," he said. "I said to Carl, 'Put that on, it's going to bring you good luck'. I got a selfie with Leo Santa Cruz and asked him to put it on. He put it straight on, laughing his head off, just a real great guy and happy to meet us all."

Clive said he was fortunate enough to have ringside seats, sitting behind former heavyweight world champion David Hayes. "I asked him who he thought would win," he explained. He said, 'Carl's going to breeze this, he's so powerful.' He was right. Carl proved himself."

Gavin Dunlop, from Belfast, added: "An incredible trip that myself and my son will never forget. You have made us all very proud Carl."

After the fight, Barry McGuigan said: "I genuinely believe this kid will go on to be the greatest Irish fighter there's ever been."

On Sunday, Sports Minister Paul Givan stated: "For our country to again punch above its weight in sport is a great credit to all our sportsmen and women."

Belfast Telegraph

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