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Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 26 May, 2019
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'I genuinely believe this kid will go on to be the greatest Irish fighter there has ever been'

Barry McGuigan paid tribute to Carl Frampton after last night’s memorable victory.

Carl Frampton, right, lands a punch on Leo Santa Cruz during their WBA Super World Featherweight Championship fight at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Saturday.
Carl Frampton, right, lands a punch on Leo Santa Cruz during their WBA Super World Featherweight Championship fight at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Saturday.
Image: Steve Luciano

Joe Callaghan reports from New York City

WHAT NEXT FOR Carl Frampton? After the finest night of his fighting life in Brooklyn on Saturday, the Jackal was barely able to savour his moment of history before being peppered with questions about what follows.

The simple answer is that whatever the hell the new WBA super featherweight champion of the world wants to happen next is likely to happen. After his sensational majority decision triumph over Leo Santa Cruz in an instant fight-of-the-year contender at the Barclays Center, Frampton now holds all the aces.

“I would love to bring him over to Belfast,” he said of an immediate rematch with the Mexican who tasted defeat for the first time in his life. “You could sell out a stadium. But I see [IBF featherweight title holder] Lee Selby is here, a great fighter, so I’m going to have respect. I’ve been singing his praises for a very long time. That’s a fight that interest me. [WBC champion] Gary Russell. All these guys. I just want to be in big fights. Someone said to me yesterday ‘real fighters fight’ and that’s just what I want to do.

I’m happy to fight anyone. I don’t want to fight no-marks. I want to be involved in big fights and be involved in big exciting fights that sell out arenas. You know, I’m 29 now, approaching 30, I’m not the youngest guy in the world now. I want to have a bit of security for my family. The fights that are big names and financially rewarding, that’s what I want.

“I just want big names. Selby is a big name, Santa Cruz is a big name, Gary Russell Jr is a big name. All these guys, that’s what I want.”

It’s likely that the next outing will indeed be financially rewarding for Frampton. He was understood to have earned around $500,000 from Saturday night but bigger paydays and many more prestigious nights now await.

You do dream when you’re a kid,” said the Belfast fighter, Ireland’s first two-weight world champion in two decades. “The dream was always to become a world champion. Once you do that, you start having other dreams. I reached that goal and now I’m a two-weight world champion. It’s just going up from here.”

Having regained his composure after tears had flowed in the aftermath of victory, manager and mentor Barry McGuigan, who held the same belt fully 30 years ago, savoured this vindication of so much belief in his protege.

I said a long time I thought he could be the greatest Irish fighter that there’s ever been,” he said. “Tonight was the greatest night of his life. We knew it would be a fight that would make him stand out. We knew it would be tough. Shane got the tactics with Carl spot on. I genuinely believe that this kid will go on to be the greatest Irish fighter that there has ever been.”

For Santa Cruz, this was an alien feeling. He clutched at straws somewhat by suggesting the vocal support of the green-and-white army had helped Frampton’s cause. Either way, he wants to do it all again.

It was a tough fight from the beginning,” said the dethroned king. “We knew it was going to be a tough fight, but I thought it was close when I’m in there throwing. Maybe the judges were hearing the crowd and thought that every little punch was scoring. He has a difficult style, but we know his style and get him in the rematch. The crowd was cheering, and I think the judges saw that. And maybe, without that, we would have had a draw or maybe a decision.

“It’s hard to get your first loss, but now we’ll go back to the gym, we’ll get the rematch and we’ll win. And that loss will mean nothing. I want to have a rematch in Los Angeles, but I’ll go to Belfast too.”

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Joe Callaghan

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