Carl Frampton showed that dreams can come true when he boxed in front of a packed Windsor Park in his home city at the weekend.
The former two-weight world champion had promised his legion of passionate fans that his ambition was always to fight at the home of Northern Ireland football – and he delivered in some style to the delight of around 24,000 supporters on a rain-soaked, historic night.
It was great night for the Tigers Bay man with both Frampton and Belfast increasing their standing on the world stage in terms of sporting potential.
The atmosphere at Windsor has been widely acclaimed as one of the best in UK or Irish boxing, and the cross-community support for Frampton – and for Paddy Barnes who fought for a world title on the undercard – indicative of boxing’s ability to unite the two main communities.
After stopping Australian opponent Luke Jackson in Round 9, Frampton described said achieving his long-held ambition as “unreal”
He said: “The atmosphere was special, the crowd was fantastic and they made my dream come true. It was unbelievable from start to finish.”
It now looks certain that Frampton will fight Englishman Josh Warrington for the IBF world featherweight title, in Manchester, within months.
Another Windsor Park hero, football captain Steven Davis, tweeted after Saturday’s fight: “Great to see @RealCFrampton doing the business again at Windsor Park tonight, looking forward to getting back out there in few weeks!”
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is also a big Frampton fan. He tweeted: “Proper display @RealCFrampton! The whole of @NorthernIreland is proud of you!”
Two-time Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes had a rare night of disappointment as he was stopped in the fourth round of his WBC world flyweight title challenge against Cristofer Rosales.
Boxing pundit and sports columnist Steve Bunce loves Belfast and Frampton in equal measure.
Reflecting on a wonderful fight night experience, immediately afterwards he tweeted: “Outdoor fights, flying chicken, champions, umbrellas and glory – that’s tonight. All in a book one day...”
The chicken comment relates to an alleged incident in a Belfast Nando’s restaurant on Friday night when English middleweight boxer Billy Joe Saunders is reported to have thrown a half chicken at world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
Tweeting about one of his many great experiences in the city, on Friday Bunce said: “Eating solo at the brilliant Scalini in Belfast and geezer leaves with his wife, ducks down, shakes my hand and says: ‘Thanks for all the kind things you say about our city.’ A pleasure, I tell him. I mean it.”