BOXING: Carl Frampton is already a sporting icon, but there is more to come from Belfast’s rising superstar…

Carl Frampton joined boxing’s elite when he became a two-weight world champion on July 31.

Following 12 rounds of beautiful brutality, Frampton claimed the WBA Featherweight strap with a majority decision win over Mexican star Leo Santa Cruz in New York.

It was a performance of unflinching zeal from the Belfast banger, who defied the odds to complete one of the greatest ever victories from a British fighter, and become the first Northern Irish boxer to win world titles at two different weight divisions.

The bout has been declared a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender, while respected promoter Lou DiBella ordained Frampton as the best of Britain’s 13 world champions.

The 29-year-old is rightly hailed as not just a boxing legend, but a sporting giant, back in his home city of Belfast.

Inside the ring Frampton is the viciously-named ‘Jackal’, but away from the square canvas he is a composed, classy icon.

His mentor and manager Barry McGuigan can empathise with the meteoric rise of his student.

It was 31 years ago that McGuigan defeated Eusebio Pedroza to lift the WBA featherweight crown at Loftus Road.

Carl Frampton is an iconic figure back in his home city of Belfast, and across the world – picture by Kelvin Boyes/Presseye

For people of a certain vintage, it remains a seminal moment in their lives.

Frampton has followed in the vaunted footsteps of McGuigan. The comparisons between the two were predictably drawn in the build-up to the Santa Cruz fight.

But on July 31 the young understudy stepped out of the shadows of his legendary boxing guardian.

What next for Northern Ireland’s latest sporting icon?

The options are endless. The opportunities boundless.

Frampton wants to fight in December before lining up an outdoor showpiece next summer – potentially at Windsor Park, the home of Northern Ireland football.

Who he will trade leather with next remains a potent topic of debate.

Again, there is an abundance of options, many of whom have already flexed their vocal cords in an attempt to goad Frampton into action.

‘The Jackal’ will bide his time and follow the guidance of mentor McGuigan. At the age of 29 he is focused on the mega-fights, the bouts that attract a healthy purse.

Santa Cruz demanded a rematch in the immediate aftermath of their recent battle, and as the dust settled following a night of wild celebration in New York, Frampton offered his conquered foe a chance of redemption.

It is a renewal that Frampton recently  hinted could happen in December.

The Northern Irish star is now the kingpin. July’s win elevated him into the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

His boxing ability has already spoken, and his own demands now carry weight.

Santa Cruz vs. Frampton -WBA featherweight title
Carl Frampton with his Featherweight world title – picture by William Cherry/Presseye

Santa Cruz has earned a rematch – the first meeting was explosive and captivated the imagination of the boxing public.

WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr is another mouth-watering prospect, while IBF strap holder Lee Selby would offer an all-British showdown.

Another enticing affair would be a clash with Guillermo Rigondeaux, who, it feels, has been calling out Frampton for years.

The Cuban is a masterful counter-puncher, but has been down before which would give the big-hitting Frampton plenty of encouragement.

Frampton may also move up another division and try to become the first Irish fighter to win titles at three different weights.

Time will tell which path he takes next, and whoever he steps into the ring with.

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