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Frampton out to give Northern Ireland a lift after World Cup misery

By David Kelly

Carl Frampton says he hopes to give the country a lift after the bitter disappointment of Northern Ireland controversially failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

Frampton was left as gutted as every other Northern Ireland fan when Michael O'Neill's men came up short against Switzerland in their World Cup play-off, ultimately losing to a solitary penalty that should never have been given at Windsor Park last Thursday night.

Now the Jackal and fellow Belfast man Jamie Conlan have the opportunity to in some way revive Northern Ireland's sporting spirits by enjoying double success this Saturday night at the SSE Arena.

Frampton returns to the ring to face Mexican Horacio Garcia, while Conlan challenges IBF World super-flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas.

The Belfast man expects victory over hard man Garcia to lead to another World title shot, while he is also backing Conlan to cause an upset at the SSE Arena.

"I was like everyone else, so disappointed with how we went out," said Frampton.

"Losing a World Cup play-off to a penalty that never was is just disgusting. It was an atrocious decision. Hopefully myself and Jamie Conlan can give the country something to shout about this weekend.

"I've got the chance to get back on track for a World title and if I can do the business and Jamie Conlan wins a World title then it would be a special night and might help lift the gloom a bit.

"You can really sense how hard everyone has taken missing out on the World Cup. I was speaking to Stuart Dallas and we both agreed that if that header by Jonny Evans, which was cleared off the line, had gone in then the Swiss would have crumbled.

"Just getting to that point was an amazing achievement by Michael O'Neill and the players."

Frampton believes this Saturday's clash with Garcia is an opportunity for him to truly move on from his Las Vegas defeat in January and make a statement to the best featherweights in the world.

The former World champion at both super-bantamweight and featherweight fights for the first time since that gut-wrenching loss to Leo Santa Cruz at the end of January in the MGM Grand having split from manager Barry McGuigan and Cyclone Promotions, teaming up with new promoter Frank Warren and coach Jamie Moore.

The 30-year-old knows that he and Moore will come under great scrutiny as he seeks to overcome Garcia in a fashion that will once more have the rest of the featherweight division on their guard heading into 2018.

"It's one thing winning but I want to look good and I feel razor sharp. I want the rest of the featherweights to know that I'm back and I'm coming for them," said Frampton.

"The work I have done in this camp has been great and I feel fresh and ready to go. The featherweight division is one of the most exciting in world boxing, there's a lot of big fights to be had over the next few years and I just need to get everything going with a good win over Garcia, who cannot be taken for granted.

"Some people seem to think that this is going to be straightforward but this guy has mixed in good company and has a lot of knockouts so I know I have to be on my game."

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