Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year winner 2017 - Carl Frampton

Carl Frampton was cheered as he walked to the stage to collect his Sports Star of the Year prize at the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

The Belfast man received a standing ovation and another as he went to sit down again.

In the history of Northern Ireland sport, he is one of our most popular figures. Better still, he's a genuinely nice guy. He's the family man from Tigers Bay with the heart of a lion.

At the Waterfront Hall, Frampton was still hurting, mentally rather than physically, from last month's defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas, but talking to presenter Craig Doyle, the 500 strong audience heard Carl's message loud and clear that he is fiercely determined to bounce back stronger than ever and become world champion again.

When he promised that 'no featherweight in the world would beat me at Windsor Park' there was a loud roar of approval inside the room.

A battle at Windsor is to come later this year - possibly against Santa Cruz in showdown number three with Frampton revealing that his team are 'more optimistic now than they were a week ago' that the Mexican will come to Belfast. It would be the hottest ticket in town.

While Frampton looks to the future, the prestigious Sports Star award was for what he achieved last year.

In his first fight in 2016, the 29-year-old defeated England's Scott Quigg in Manchester to the joy of the Jackal Army to add the WBA Super-Bantamweight belt to his IBF title.

Next up was his first contest with Santa Cruz in New York with the WBA World Featherweight title at stake. It turned out to be a belter in Brooklyn with Frampton winning on points.

Victory in the city that never sleeps was a dream come true for Carl and his best moment in boxing to date as he became the first man from Northern Ireland to be crowned world champion at two different weights.

Frampton's success was one of the highlights of a stunning year for Northern Ireland sport.

"I think 2016 will go down as one of the best years ever for sport in this country," Frampton told the attentive audience.

"We had so much to cheer from Jonathan Rea winning the World Superbikes again to Bethany Firth shining at the Paralympics, Rory Best leading Ireland to the historic victory over New Zealand and Northern Ireland reaching the knockout stages of the Euro 2016 finals, it was an incredible year.

"It shows the determination in Northern Ireland to be the best. The night I beat Santa Cruz in New York was the pinnacle of my career so far and I feel there is more to come.

"I want to become world champion again and I believe I will."

No one at the Waterfront Hall doubted him for a second. Nobody in Northern Ireland does.

While we hope Carl enjoys some time off with his wife Christine, children Carla and Rossa and family and friends, it will be great to see the Belfast Telegraph's 2016 Sports Star of the Year back in the ring again later this year.

Nominee: Jonathan Rea

In 2015 Jonathan Rea's ambition of being the World Superbike champion was fulfilled.

Winning it the first time was sensational. With the pressure on the Ballyclare man knew in 2016 he would have a target on his back with the rest of the riders all challenging his supremacy.

Rea was up to it and then some as he made a fantastic start to his season and maintained his excellent form, enabling him to retain his crown - an achievement even more impressive than winning it in the first place.

With his class at World Superbike level confirmed, don't bet against him making it three titles in-a-row.

 

Nominee: Bethany Firth

SWIMMER Bethany Firth was just brilliant in 2016.

It turned out to be the year of her dreams.

The 20-year-old travelled to Rio for the Paralympics hoping to bring home a gold medal.

By the end of the Games, she had THREE around her neck and a silver for good measure.

Firth started the Paralympics in breathtaking fashion winning the S14 100m backstroke in a world record breaking time of 1:04.05. From then on she was almost unstoppable, triumphing in the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley plus earning a silver in the 100m breaststroke.

Nominee: Rory Best

RORY Best didn't just become an international centurion in 2016, he made history as well.

You may think that the highlight of his year came in Dublin in November when, as the first Ulster player to reach 100 caps for Ireland, he led the side to a famous victory over Australia at the Aviva stadium.

What happened a few weeks before eclipsed even that when Best captained the Irish team to their first ever victory against New Zealand. The men in green finally overcame the All Blacks, after 111 years of trying, in a stunning display in Chicago, and they were led and inspired by the outstanding Best.

Belfast Telegraph

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