Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

We are all behind Carl Frampton

Carl Frampton is well on his way to joining Northern Ireland sporting royalty

There's Something About Carl Frampton. X-Factor? Check. Charisma? Check. Self-belief? Check. Work ethic? Check. Ability? Check, check, check.

He has got the lot.

Including the type of love story that scriptwriters crave – he's the lad from the loyalist Tiger's Bay area who fell for and married his sweetheart Christine, who hails from nationalist Poleglass. They have a lovely daughter called Carla.

One other thing in Carl Frampton's favour; he is a genuinely decent guy.

At the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards in January, the 27-year-old won a prize. He was chuffed to receive the trophy and his funny acceptance speech on the night had the great and good of Northern Ireland sport chuckling away.

More important to Frampton, though, was being in attendance to present a Local Heroes award to his first coach, Billy McKee.

Carl wanted everything to go well for his old friend on a night when Billy stepped out of the shadows to shine on the stage.

McKee spent a lifetime working with kids at the Midland Boxing Club in north Belfast and was the man who started Frampton's career, training him, encouraging him and inspiring him from an early age.

Carl may be a big time professional now and closing in on a world title fight, but he has never forgotten Billy's crucial part in his development and was determined to let the 500-strong crowd, in the Ramada Hotel that night, know it in a heartfelt tribute.

Billy, not a man prone to emotion or one to seek attention, was bursting with pride. People like him deserve to be recognised and Carl did just that.

You could have heard a pin drop in the packed room as Frampton spoke eloquently about McKee's influence, not just on his boxing, but on his life.

People warm to Frampton.

He's that sort of fella.

Ahead of the awards ceremony in January when the great Tony McCoy heard Carl would also be there, AP told me about meeting the boxer a month before and being really impressed. When I informed Northern Ireland's record goalscorer David Healy that he would be sitting at the same table as Frampton, he was smiling like a kid with a new toy.

McCoy and Healy are considered sporting royalty in these parts.

Frampton is well on his way to joining them. He will King of the ring some day.

And with canny manager Barry McGuigan guiding him, that day should come later this year.

McGuigan, of course, has been there and done it and remains about as popular a sporting figure as you'll ever get.

When Barry fought in the '80s, Northern Ireland stopped for 15 rounds.

It was a desperate time in our wee country... we seemed to be trapped in the darkest of tunnels, but when the Clones Cyclone put on his gloves, suddenly there was a chink of light with people from all backgrounds coming together to support him.

McGuigan never fought for one side or the other. He gave blood, sweat and tears for all and we appreciated him for it.

Never under-estimate the power of sport or sporting stars.

I still get goose bumps thinking about that night at Loftus Road when McGuigan became champion of the world, defeating the respected and renowned Eusebio Pedroza.

Almost 30 years on, it is fitting that McGuigan and his sons, Shane and Jake, are so heavily involved with our latest boxing sensation.

Frampton and McGuigan. Who on earth is going to stop that combination?

Hopefully not Hugo Cazarez, the experienced Mexican, taking on the home favourite at the Odyssey Arena tomorrow night.

When the first bell sounds the place will be jumping, with everyone knowing that Carl could be just minutes away from securing a world title shot with WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz.

Frampton is feeling confident. He's wants this win like no other. Go get it Carl. We're right behind you.

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