When Carl Frampton steps onto the hallowed turf of Windsor Park this Saturday, and prepares to take on Australian Olympian Luke Jackson, he will soak in the latest highlight of an incredible journey that has taken him from the working class interface community of Tigers Bay in Belfast to world titles at two weights and several main events on celebrated nights.
The former unified super-bantam and WBA featherweight ruler hopes there are many more great occasions in his future, but when he absorbs the cheers of 25,000 partisan supporters at the home of his beloved Northern Ireland football team, Carl Frampton can be forgiven for thinking Windsor Park represents the pinnacle of his career.
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I grew up with my mum [Flo], dad [Craig], a younger (by a year) brother and older sister (by nine years). My mum worked in supermarkets, it’s Asda now, was Woolworths then Morrisons. My dad had a few jobs, but he’s been a leisure centre attendant for 28 years, and a shop steward. My brother is a labourer, a real grafter and my sister does cleaning and works in an off license. I was the middle child. I had a normal childhood, out on the street most days, you find something to do after school; messing about, playing football. My grandad (my dad’s dad) was always a big boxing fan, he always talked about it. There used to be pro boxing at the Ulster Hall on a Wednesday and Saturday night, two nights a week, and he used to remember the stories from those shows, like he remembered seeing the first time a black boxer fought at Ulster Hall, and it was the talk of the town. I was in a terraced housing estate. My street, Upper Canning Street, was the closest street to the interface, on the Protestant side.
His first trip to America
I went to Texas with kids who were living on interfaces; in the summer they take you for six weeks to live with an American family. I went to Marshall, Texas and stayed with the Carters; we still keep in touch with them, we’ve met up a few times, they came to my El Paso fight, New York and Vegas. We went to a few ranches, lived in their house. I was teamed up with a kid and we used to go fishing… I’d never been anywhere in my life, it was amazing. I remember going to a wee soccer camp and they were all s***; I felt like Maradona! That first trip was with the Project Children charity, but the second year they brought me back of their own accord. After that they offered again and I said no… I hate myself for saying this, but the reason was I missed the July marching season two years in a row. It’s an exciting time when you’re a young Protestant kid growing up.
His life as a husband to Christine and father to Carla (7 ½) and Rossa (3 ½).
I take them to the park, swimming, we go for walks with the family, breaks away when we can. It’s really nice. You don’t really have to worry about going away on holiday except when we do it, because school don’t like you taking them away during term time.
How Tigers Bay has changed
I still go to Tigers Bay all the time – I visit my old amateur club, Midland, there from time to time and Christine and I have good friends there. There’s a bit more hard-line drugs in the area now but this is all over Belfast. Heroin wasn’t an issue when I was a kid, people woulda smoked a joint or taken a few Es. But the trouble between rival communities is not a fraction now of what it used to be.