Northern Ireland news

Windsor Park prepares to welcome 25,000 fight fans

World heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder arrives at George Best Airport. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

AMONG the 25,000 fight fans gathering tonight to watch Carl Frampton fulfil a career-long dream to box at Windsor Park will be WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.

The `Bronze Bomber' and his retinue flew into George Best Airport yesterday ahead of fight night at the ground where the legendary Northern Ireland footballer thrilled crowds throughout the 1970s.

In recent years, Frampton has enjoyed the Green and White Army's home matches from the VIP area of the stadium, alongside other local celebrities like golfer Rory McIlroy, actor James Nesbitt and singer Gary Lightbody.

Tonight, the Tigers Bay `Jackal' will be the headline attraction as he meets Australian Luke Jackson in the outdoor spectacular in the stadium where dreams have both come true and been dashed.

There will also be huge interest in double Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes, who will faces a world title fight against WBC flyweight champion Cristopher Rosale.

But Wilder, who will be at the ringside in a TV commentary role, will primarily be focused on another part of the under card - Tyson Fury vs Francesco Pianeta.

Both Frampton and Fury are hoping victory tonight's fights will set up a world title challenge.

And it was Fury's weigh-in at the Europa Hotel in Belfast city centre which Wilder crashed yesterday, the pair staging a noisy and entertaining face-off in the plush lobby.

The complex infrastructure needed to stage the outdoor fights has angered some living nearby, with Blackstaff Residents' Association chairman William Dickson saying "many cars that are not normally parked there have greatly reduced parking spaces for local people".

"There has also been an increase in vehicles of all kinds using the streets.

"... The situation has become a joke. Photos show a lorry with crowd control barriers stuck, and blocking the main Donegall Avenue."

He accused the IFA of "ignoring residents' requests to hold meetings of the community forum which last met on March 25, 2017".

A spokesman for the IFA acknowledged that two of the 25 lorry deliveries for the fight "wrongly came to the Donegall Avenue gate", despite the association having "written to every supplier to say that they mustn't come through Donegall Avenue, but through the non-residential Boucher Road entrance".

However, he insisted it had "written to the residents on three occasions in recent weeks, the most recent communication was 400 leaflets which were hand-delivered yesterday (containing) detailed information on the fight and provided a help-line for residents should they have any issues with noise".

Ticket holders have been encouraged to enter and leave the stadium from the Boucher Road side where possible, with "substantial numbers" of PSNI officers policing potential "traffic or anti-social behaviour issues in the area outside the stadium".

Extra waste bins will also be placed inside and outside the entrances to the stadium and additional trains laid on.

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