Northern Ireland

Carl Frampton says Santa Cruz victory puts him close to being boxing superstar

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Media captionCarl Frampton said the world title win over Leo Santa Cruz "creates a bit of legacy"

Belfast's Carl Frampton has said his victory over WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz puts him "close to being a superstar in the boxing world".

The 29-year-old from Tiger's Bay gained the belt after beating the previously unbeaten Mexican in New York.

He became the first Northern Ireland fighter to win a world title in two weight divisions.

"I think it was a huge statement, it puts me close to the top 10 pound for pound [boxers]," Frampton said.

"I don't want to be bumptious or anything, or big-headed, but I think this puts me close to being a superstar in the boxing world and I'm over the moon really."

He added: "I'm in the driving seat now and big names will want this title, this belt that I've got. They'll come for me.

Image copyright Anthony Geathers
Image caption Frampton became the first Northern Ireland fighter to win a world title in two weight divisions

"Obviously, financially it's going to be rewarding and that's important too when you've got two young kids and a wife to look after. So financially it'll help me, but I feel like I've created a bit of a legacy too."

Another Northern Irish sporting superstar who watched the fight ringside - golfer Rory McIlroy - described it as "absolutely incredible".

"I think you could see in the arena the support that Carl had, not just from everyone who came from Northern Ireland, but the Americans really took to him as well," McIlroy said.

"What a fantastic fight. To go in there and stand toe to toe with Santa Cruz was unbelievable - I don't think I've been as nervous at a sporting event in my life."

McIlroy congratulated Frampton in his changing room after the fight.

"I just wanted to hang around and say congratulations, it's such a momentous occasion for him obviously and for sport in Northern Ireland," he said.

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Media captionRory McIlroy said there was no better show in sport than a boxing match between two great fighters

"I think sport brings people together, it's not like there's one side or the other, everyone's behind him. It doesn't matter where you're from or how you were raised, you're from Northern Ireland and you support your own.

"He's a fantastic ambassador and a great role model."

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness said Frampton had deserved his victory.

"Carl has proven once again he is a true champion and last night showed incredible grit, heart and skill against a formidable opponent," they said.

"His relentless determination and incredible sacrifice to be the best he possibly can be has now deservedly made him champion at two different weight classes."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Belfast's Frampton beat Santa Cruz on points in New York

Frampton's manager, former featherweight world champion Barry McGuigan, said it was one of the greatest nights of his life.

"The official came round and warned me several times, I nearly deafened the judge who was beside me," he said

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Media captionCarl Frampton can be Ireland's best ever fighter - Barry McGuigan

"I screamed my head off, I'm almost hoarse.

"This is one of the greatest nights of my life, it's amazing. If you can't do it yourself and you live it and breathe it with your fighter, it doesn't get much better."

Northern Ireland Sports Minister Paul Givan also congratulated Frampton for his "great achievement".

"For our country to again 'punch above its weight' in sport is a great credit to all our sports men and women," Mr Givan said.

"Sport is a fantastic way of bringing people together and Carl and the rest of our sports people are role models to so many."

Image caption McIlroy congratulated the 29-year-old after his historic victory

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