Belfast’s Carl Frampton was pleasantly surprised to be awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours for services to boxing.
The 28-year-old is the reigning IBF super-bantamweight champion and is set to fight WBA belt-holder Scott Quigg in a unification bout in Manchester on February 27 next year.
Nicknamed the Jackal, he made his professional debut in 2009 and is yet to be beaten in 21 fights, winning 14 of them by knock-out.
Frampton was made to work hard in his most recent title defence, suffering two first-round knockdowns against Alejandro Gonzalez in El Paso in July before going on to win the fight on points.
Frampton said he was privileged to join such Belfast luminaries as Barry McGuigan and double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes in receiving an honour.
Frampton said: “It came as a big surprise and it was actually Barry who told me the good news. I am happy and proud and I am pleased that my sport of professional boxing has got some recognition.
“It is a good time to get the award ahead of my unification fight against Scott Quigg next month, and it gives me an incentive to go on and achieve even more in my career in the future.”
Frampton earned his IBF belt in September 2014 with a unanimous points victory over Kiko Martinez in Belfast.
Like his mentor McGuigan, Frampton, who is from a Protestant background but is married to a Catholic, has succeeded in drawing support from either side of the sectarian divide.
In an interview with the BBC in 2014, McGuigan said: “Carl is doing what I did.
“He’s a beacon for peace and reconciliation and represents the future of Northern Ireland. Albeit, it’s not as treacherous at the moment – we don’t have the Troubles like we did back then.”