Newly unified world super-bantamweight champion Carl Frampton hopes his achievements can inspire Northern Ireland to “do something magical” at Euro 2016.
The Belfast-born 29-year-old secured a split-decision triumph over Scott Quigg at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, adding his long-time rival’s WBA crown to the IBF belt already in his possession.
While Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney offered consoling dressing-room words to Quigg, who shipped an uppercut to suffer a broken jaw in the fourth round before staging a valiant late rally, Frampton basked in the acclaim granted to him by Irish stars of sport and screen.
Champion jockey AP McCoy and actor James Nesbitt made for unlikely ringside chums, Rooney was revealed to have lost a pre-fight wager with golf superstar Rory McIlroy, while Frampton’s manager and mentor Barry McGuigan was assured Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson were avidly watching their new sporting icon Stateside.
Frampton was accompanied in the ring by Northern Ireland internationals Stuart Dallas, Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis and Gareth McAuley before squaring off with Quigg – men he described at a post-fight news conference as “heroes of mine”.
“Sport is on a real high in Northern Ireland at the minute,” Frampton said.
“Sadly, Ireland lost to England [in the Six Nations rugby on Saturday], I watched that game.
“But I feel like maybe I’ve got the ball rolling here and maybe the boys can get a wee bit of something from that and take into the Euros to do something – do something magical and get out of that group, who knows?”
Shortly before Frampton reflected on his growing army of high-profile admirers, a crestfallen Quigg assessed his maiden professional defeat in a much-craved showdown.
“[Rooney said] to keep my chin up. I said, ‘I’ll have to keep it straight first’,” he joked, but the pain etched upon a self-confessed boxing obsessive was there for all to see.
“I’m putting on a brave face to you; it’s absolutely killing me inside,” said Quigg, his voice cracking with emotion.
“As soon as I get back in the gym I’ll be putting the work in and I’ll make sure it never happens again.”
Quigg’s desire to undertake a Belfast rematch might count for little as Frampton mulls various lucrative options.
These include a potential step up in weight to face similarly undefeated WBA featherweight king Leo Santa Cruz – winner over five barnstorming rounds against former Quigg and Frampton opponent Kiko Martinez in California on Saturday.
“I’m happy to have a rematch if the public demand it, but there’s other options, Frampton added.
“To be honest, I would rather move on to bigger and better things now.”
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