Carl Frampton was hailed a true “role model” in his native north Belfast neighbourhood on Sunday, where some residents had stayed awake until well past dawn to toast his latest major victory.
His world featherweight title triumph over Leo Santa Cruz was particularly keenly felt in the home of the Stewart family in Tiger’s Bay, where 11-year-old fan Morgan Stewart said she was delighted by the win – adding that she wants to follow him into the sport.
Her house was bedecked with Frampton paraphernalia, ranging from a banner on the front wall which she got for Christmas, to an entire kitchen filled with photographs and clippings of her hero.
Clad in a top bearing Carl Frampton’s name and beaming broadly, she said she had watched the fight with her mother, grandfather, and about 12 others as it was broadcast live from the USA at about 4am, only going to bed hours afterwards.
“It was scary, because there were a couple of rounds where he looked tired,” she said.
“I thought it was going to be Santa Cruz – but when they said it was Carl, we were all cheering. I was happy.”
Asked why she is so keen on him, she said: “He always used to stop and talk to me... I always used to ask: ‘Can you get some of my stuff signed?’ He said yes. He was a nice person.”
It has been suggested by Carl himself that Belfast’s Windsor Park could be the venue of a future fight.
Asked when she would like to see such a bout take place, Morgan said: “I’d like to see him fight next week!”
She has a pair of boxing gloves, and asked if she now wants to pursue the sport herself she said: “Yeah.”
Asked whether it was Carl who had sparked this desire, she said the same thing.
Mother Jean Stewart, 31, said: “Whether mummy lets her will be another matter.”
She added: “I think he [Carl] has done really well for himself, and deserves everything he gets – he’s worked hard for it.
“He’s a role model for the kids as well too. He’s done something nobody else has done coming from here.”
Despite the fame he has achieved, he still “goes out of his way” to chat to children from the neighbourhood.
Her grandfather, Bill Stewart, 60, spoke to the News Letter at about 3.30pm.
Visibly tired, he still had not slept at the point, despite being up all night watching the match and socialising.
“He’s changed the atmosphere,” he said.
“For the community, he’s done a brilliant job.”
In the off-licence nearby, Dorothy Hunter, a 63-year-old from Mount Vernon in north Belfast, said Saturday had been a busy day, but business was slower than usual on Sunday.
“Today I think they’re still in bed,” she told the News Letter at about 4pm.
She said that the family is well-known in the area, adding: “If he was my son, I’d be very, very proud.”
She described him as an “ambassador” for Northern Ireland.
Previously, the son of Carl’s old trainer had claimed that following every big bout around a dozen curious youngsters appear at his former gym eager to learn the sport.