Fighting fit for a brighter future

I can’t tell you how proud I felt when Carl Frampton rolled back the boxing years to bring the glory of the ring back to Belfast.

I’d like to admit that I’m personally more suited to lacrosse (I’m not, as it happens, but it sounds good) and my gob, thankfully, has never encountered the wrong end of a glove. These fake lashes – let me tell you – are inviolate.

But thon lad’s done something really special. He’s won a world title. He’s kicked some really serious boxing ass (for beating Kiko Martinez was no cakewalk). And he’s brought the whole of Northern Ireland together.

We do punch above our weight in the square ring. Think about Rinty Monaghan. Think about the one they called ‘Wee Red’, although not for too long, lest the flame-haired puncher-turned-snapper, who’s reasonably content to be called Hugh Russell these days, gets nasty.

(Och he won’t, for Hugh is an absolute gentleman.)

It’s a long and proud tradition. Norn Irn’s fists of fury have given us a special profile that others can only envy. How mad would the excitable English media have been if they’d had a Paddy Barnes or a Michael Conlon in the Commonwealth Games.

No, we seriously kicked English ass. And every ass, actually.

And Paddy, by the way, is the dacentest lad you ever could meet.

There is genuinely a wee shiver running down my spine as I write this, for I feel so proud that a working-class lad from Tiger’s Bay has shown that he’s the best in the world. And that means that we’re the best in the world too.

I’m not from Tiger’s Bay and I’m not even from Belfast. But I feel proud that one of our own has done it for us.

Carl Frampton is boxing’s Rory McIlroy. He can do an interview without trying to sound American, he never mentions Pebble (Beach) and he can do a mean air-guitar cover of ‘Smoke on the Water’ in his boxing trunks.

Boxing is a rarity in sporting terms here, for it genuinely does bring people together. My own dalliance with the multi-roped square circle came to an abrupt end when I realised that I didn’t like the taste of blood – especially when it was my own.

No other sport can achieve anything similar. Football always has an edge to it, GAA moreso, and hockey, as once described by @squinter, is a game ‘of men at right angles’. Rugby’s just about got there and cricket’s on its way.

No such distinctions in boxing. You’re never a Prod and you’re never a Taig. Did anyone really care what foot Barry McGuigan kicked with? No. It was what he punched with. Dave Boy? Wayne McCullough?

Barry brought everyone together in the 80s, a dangerous time when religion did matter. The lad from Clones united Trillick Taig and Portavogie Prod.

Now it’s the turn of the @theRealCFrampton. It’s a heavy-duty repsonsibility but all he has to do is be himself.

He’s genuine. He’s open. He’s honest. And … he’s just Carl Frampton.

I made up the bit about the ‘Smoke on the Water’ air-guitar thing. It’s quite possible that he can’t do it. But who cares! He’s our world champion and we love him.

Tiger’s Bay abú!