Northern Ireland news

Carl Frampton vows to become Irish champ at three weights

Carl Frampton received a hero's welcome from his fans at Belfast City Hall.  Picture by Hugh Russell
Michael McHugh, PA

CARL Frampton came back home to Belfast with a promise of becoming the first Irishman to win world titles at three different weights.

The north Belfast fighter from Tigers Bay outscored tough Mexican Leo Santa Cruz in Brooklyn to take the WBA featherweight title last month.

The victory earned The Jackal the belt his manager Barry McGuigan won in 1985 and follows his super-bantamweight championship victory after he stepped up a division.

He appeared at a special homecoming event in the grounds of Belfast City Hall with promoter McGuigan, coach Shane McGuigan and daughters Carla and Rossa as he promised a fight before a home crowd in the city's Windsor Park stadium next summer.

He said: "(I am) the only ever Northern Irishman to win a world title in two divisions, only the second ever Irishman after Steve Collins to win world titles in two different divisions, I would like to have a go at three and stand out on my own."

The devoted young dad was joined on stage by his children Carla (6) and Rossa (1).

Thousands attended the special event for 'The Jackal' at City Hall which was hosted by First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Sports Minister Paul Girvan and Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston.

 

Boxing demonstrations by local fighters took place in the grounds from 4.30pm.

 

Carl Frampton received a hero's welcome from his fans at Belfast City Hall.  Picture by Hugh Russell

Barry McGuigan said his fighter was magnificent and fought the fight of the year.

"We have had some amazing fighters in Northern Ireland and in Ireland, 40, 50 incredible fighters but I honestly think Frampton can go down as one of the best of all time - he is that good."

He added: "He is one of the best fighters I have ever set eyes on."

The promoter - once known as the Clones Cyclone - said his boxer could throw a punch, he could box going backwards and forwards, he was exceptionally tough and calm under pressure.

"He never loses his composure and he is always magnificently prepared.

"Frampton is unbelievably talented and he is going to want bigger and better things. We have not reached the top of the mountain yet - we really haven't."

He said he needed a stadium to hold 20,000 people.

"In order to get him into the hall of fame, to get his name up in lights and to get him into the top ten in the world, we need to get him into America as well."

Frampton, the north Belfast fighter made history on July 30 when he outpointed the previously unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz to win the WBA Featherweight title.

He previously held the unified WBA (Super) and IBF super-bantamweight titles.

A potential rematch with Santa Cruz or a tilt at the IBF champion Lee Selby are in Frampton's thoughts.

He said a fight with Selby could come before Christmas.

"Selby is a great fighter, he is someone I respect, I think he is very good, but I just believe me at featherweight now, I don't think there is anyone stopping me, I just feel so strong and whoever wants it next can get it."

He added: "I am in the driving seat, I can call the shots, but we will see where we go, I will let the team decide, but I love Belfast and I want to fight here as much as possible.

"I want to fight here at least once a year and Windsor Park in the summer would be a dream come true."

He is in the top 10 fighters, according to some pundits.

"To actually crack it and get inside, it is great, it is unbelievable, I feel like it is a big achievement and am very happy to be mixing with the sort of guys that are in the top 10."

He said he thought he won last month's fight by two or three rounds.

"When a fighter smiles at you, you can tell that something is wrong and they are trying to play a game. I knew that I was hurting him throughout the fight.

"I fought with my heart rather than my head at times. I could have made the fight much easier for myself but to be honest I was glad that it was a good fight. It is good for my legacy having fights like that with Santa Cruz."

 Carl Frampton made sure that his children Carla and Rossa did not miss out on his big homecoming. Picture by Hugh Russell

Excerpts from Carl’s two championship fights will be shown on large screens and the man himself will speak about his achievements and continuing ambition.

“I am honoured that the city of Belfast is hosting a homecoming event for me," he said.

"I’m a working-class lad from Belfast and I’m delighted that I’ll be able to celebrate my World title win with the people of this great city."

Mr Kingston said earlier: "“The whole city wants to pay tribute to a fantastic fighter who is a role model not just for his sport but for sport in general and what it can contribute in life skills and opportunity.

 Crowds gather to see their hero Carl Frampton honoured at City Hall. Picture by Hugh Russell

Carl Frampton pictured with the WBA featherweight belt the morning after defeating Leo Santa Cruz in New York. A special homecoming event will be held at Belfast City Hall on Friday.Photo by William Cherry

"He is hard working, determined, focused and a first-class ambassador for Belfast – he never forgets where he comes from and often pays tribute to it and its people.

"At Friday’s event our people can pay their own well-deserved tribute to him – an extraordinary champion and an even more extraordinary man who has his roots firmly planted at home," he added.

Carl Frampton celebrates after defeating Leo Santa Cruz at the Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, New York

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