Wham! Bam! Kerpow! went the fists of Carl Frampton, although his opponent Kiko Martinez didn’t know when he was beaten and stood his ground until the bitter end.
Frampton was crowned IBF Super-bantamweight Champion of the World in front of 16,000 ecstatic supporters as the Titanic Quarter rocked.
However it was a verbal blow that bowled me over last Saturday night. Let me explain…
While I watched the fight in a local tavern, a lad I know well, shouted, “Come on the bald fella!”
As the Jackal is hardly bald, I enquired, “Why are you shouting for him?”
He wasn’t cheering for Martinez, he was a member of ABF brigade, shouting against Frampton.
“Frampton’s from Tiger’s Bay!” came the brusque reply.
“And?…” sez I.
“..and you know what they are like, You can’t take it out of them.”
Unlike Martinez I threw in the towel as I hadn’t the heart for another round. It is impossible to describe a colour to a blind man especially, as the Good Book says, one who looks at the speck of sawdust in their brother’s eye and pays no attention to the plank in their own.
Boxing is one of the very few sports in this part of the world that rises above the green and orange divide. For what it’s worth, Carl Frampton is married to a girl from Poleglass on the other side of town. He has a Catholic manager from Co Monaghan who is married to a Protestant and has been a great support to Conrad ‘Dynamite’ Cummings from Coalisland on his venture into the pro-game. Indeed they are close friends sharing an apartment and following last weekend’s epic win, Conrad was one of the first people into the ring to embrace the victor.
The Frampton story is about a boy who came out of a working class area in Belfast to conquer the world.
Sectarianism, like its first cousin racism, is a boil on the ass of this society. It is the working class keeping a foot on its own neck.
The man in the Celtic jersey walks along the Falls Road carrying his little boy Mini-Me, also clad in a Celtic jersey. Meanwhile less than half a mile away, a man wearing a Rangers jersey walks along the red, white and blue kerbstones on the Shankill Road carrying his son, Mini-Me, also wearing a Rangers shirt. They are two fathers with so much in common but their communities are separated by a sea of mistrust, suspicion and hostility.
Meanwhile they want Rory McIlroy to wave their flag at the Olympic Games in Brazil. “Is McIlroy a Catholic or Protestant?” we all asked. The Hollywood multimillionaire has spent his life on the fairways far removed from parades and armoured cars. He has little in common with our two Old Firm fans on the Falls and Shankill Roads.
Through boxing Carl Frampton climbed out of the trench and reached across the divide. He is an example to us all.
Sectarianism is lazy and cowardly. It takes a man to question blind bigotry and long-held belief systems bestowed since childhood. Couch potatoes are too afraid to take a stand. Thankfully the large majority of people here are made of better things.
If there was a huge disaster in the North, everyone would work together for the common good and realise them’uns don’t have eyes closer together.
When in need of a transfusion, nobody asks whether the blood came from Tiger’s Bay or the Short Strand. That was apparent during the days after the Omagh bomb that took the lives of Catholics and Protestants, children and adults as well as visitors from the Republic and Spain.
In another life I spent a few years in Cahir, Co Tipperary. Beside us lived a family named Bell. In a conversation a few years after we met, I realised they were Protestants. It was no relevance to the mostly Catholic community, and therefore was never mentioned.
Martin Luther King dreamt of a day when he would live in a nation when his children would not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. Some day perhaps we will see a local boy or girl make good, and not wonder which foot they dig with.
The late Ian Paisley took many decades to reach out an open hand, albeit in a self-serving quest for power.
It is superstars like Carl Frampton who can lead us to glory. By coming out of the trench, he has set a powerful example to young people and old dinosaurs. Frampton is a great role model, a leader who can take people with him. Our very own Conrad Cummings is in good hands.
The next time Carl Frampton fights, I will cheer him again to the roof tops.
A working class hero.