Whether he wins or loses, Carl Frampton’s latest world championship bid could spur on the next generation of young Northern Irish boxers, it has been claimed.
Willie McKee said that following each one of Carl’s fights a raft of curious novices always turn up afterwards to his former training gym in north Belfast to learn about the sport.
Willie’s father Billy McKee, aged 78, had been one of the founders of Midland Boxing Club in Tiger’s Bay, and had helped to train Carl when he was just a child. Billy remains involved with the club to this day.
He is currently in New York, getting ready to watch his 29-year-old former trainee fight Leo Santa Cruz in New York on Saturday night.
Due to the time difference, the fight is expected to be at roughly 4am in the UK (available exclusively via subscription service BoxNation).
Asked what the reaction would be to another victory from the undefeated Carl, 48-year-old Rathcoole man Willie, said: “It’d mean the world to the people of Northern Ireland.
“They need heroes. They need guys like Carl Frampton and Rory McIlroy and guys who do the country proud.”
Even when Carl was aged eight or nine, Willie remembers his father saying: “Just watch this lad – he’s something special.”
When it comes to how his father would react to a victory in this fight, Willie said: “He’s very proud of Carl. He’s proud of the boxer that he is and the young fellow that he’s turned into.
“My dad would be over the moon, absolutely over the moon...
“After a Frampton fight, there’s maybe a dozen kids come down to the boxing club. New ones will come through the door. [My dad’s] attitude is: ‘If I can hold on to two or three of those wee lads, that’s the new blood of boxers coming through’.”
Asked if this would happen even if Carl loses, he said: “Yeah, I think so. Win or lose, people come through the door. Frampton has had that effect.”