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House of Windsor will surely belong to Frampton

 

By David Kelly

It was July 1954 when a legendary Irish featherweight, Billy Kelly, headlined at Windsor Park and now the modern day 9st great Carl Frampton will have that honour, seeking to copper fasten a legacy of Belfast fight nights that will be hard to surpass.

As 25,000 prepare to make their way to the home of Northern Ireland football, there is a pervading sense that this occasion is for one night only. The script would seem to be set for Northern Ireland's favourite sporting hero. Dismiss fall guy Luke Jackson and ride off into the sunset to conquer the world.

In the 1930s, stadium fights in Belfast were as normal as the rain that is expected to fall on the canopy at Windsor later this evening with bouts held at grounds such as The Oval, Grosvenor Park, the Brandywell, Seaview and Solitude.

Post-war they diminished and the nearest we have come to such an event in recent times was Frampton's first world title success when outpointing Kiko Martinez for the IBF super-bantamweight title in 2014 in a purpose-built arena at Titanic Quarter.

On that bitterly cold evening, Frampton announced himself to the world as an elite fighter and over the past 12 months has been in the process of plotting his way back to such lofty heights.

Promoter Frank Warren will deliver a world title shot should he overcome Jackson, whose battle with depression and conquering of drug use makes him a winner whatever happens tonight and it is likely to be a very painful experience.

For Frampton this will be the ultimate boxing party and we are all invited to savour a taste of the adrenaline rush he will surely feel when donning his Northern Ireland shirt and making his way to the Windsor pitch.

"It's going to be a very special moment to walk out into that arena. There were times when I thought this chance would never come and here it is," said Frampton.

"I have sat and pictured in my head what it will be like in the fight. I know the atmosphere will be incredible. Everyone knows what the noise is like for the Northern Ireland team with 18,000 in there and now you're going to have even more.

"It's such a special night, a huge night for Northern Ireland sport never mind boxing that I feel the expectation of producing a performance that everyone who is there will be talking about for the rest of their lives.

"I have been fortunate because of my fan base that I have been able to headline in New York, Las Vegas and Manchester but this is the ultimate for me.

"For me the perfect night will be to go out and produce a spectacular knockout. I've pictured that and I know I'm due a stoppage."

Kicking a ball around the streets of Tigers Bay after training at the Midland amateur boxing club under the guidance of coach and mentor Billy McKee, Frampton's dream was not world title belts but following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland heroes such as George Best, Gerry Armstrong, Michael Hughes and David Healy, some of whom he went along to roar on from the Windsor stands.

Captain of the local side Loughside Boys, Frampton could be seen with fury in his eyes after a defeat.

"I had that competitive streak, I had to win and I would get annoyed if I didn't see the same desire in the other lads," he said. "Playing for Northern Ireland at Windsor would have been the ultimate dream for me but I guess this is the next best thing.

"I can't afford to let myself, my fans or my family down against Jackson. They all deserve to see me at my best."

For some the occasion could easily be overwhelming, stage fright settling in when the knock comes to the door, but Frampton's innate serenity when it comes to the ring business affords him the opportunity to fight with clarity of thought.

It allows him to be clinical, to calculate and efficiently complete his mission.

"I have always felt that pressure situations are good for me. I have had expectations on my shoulders throughout my career so I know how to handle it," said Frampton.

"That night against Kiko Martinez was a very big one because everyone just seemed to expect me to turn up and win because I had beaten him before but he was the world champion.

"I think I responded well because I put on one of my best boxing performances.

"The one thing I remember about that night was sitting on the ring apron afterwards and feeling unwell because I was so cold and I couldn't wait to get back to the dressing room. Hopefully I can enjoy this moment a bit more."

Australian Jackson feels he can match Frampton when it comes to such ring generalship but all factors point to the 31-year-old Belfast man finding the path to victory with a steel and guile to put the world on notice that he is ready to rule once more.

As a man who has yet to taste defeat as a professional, the former Australian Olympic captain should bring a well of tenacity and desire but ultimately that should be bled dry by Frampton's potent skills and venomous power by the sixth round.

Belfast Telegraph

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