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Watch out for Frampton..next warrior for the fighting Irish.

Byline: Barry McGuigan

THE fighting Irish, like many clichs, has its roots in a literal truth. For the most part in the history of the Emerald Isle the fight has been for respect.

Boxing played a huge part in that. Ireland gave boxing its first global superstar in John L Sullivan, born in America to Irish parents. For the next 50-odd years until the 1930s boxers of Irish descent dominated the heavyweight division.

Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Jim Braddock, Jim Corbett and others all played their part in establishing a tradition that did much to create and reinforce a positive image of the Irish abroad.

This was the case particularly in the United States, where it was not uncommon once upon a time to read signs above doors that read: No dogs, blacks or Irish.

On Thursday I was honoured to open an exhibition of great Irish American boxers at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.

It is the same exhibition that I helped launch in 2005 with Liam Neeson in New York. It is impossible to overstate the impact made by these first superstars of the ring.

Sullivan bridged the gap between bare-knuckle and gloved boxing. The bag he used to prepare for his final defence of his bare-knuckle crown in 1889, which he won against Jake Kilrain in round 75 of a scheduled 80, is just one of the exhibits. This was the last title fight to take place under London Prize Ring Rules.

The exhibition has grown since the 2005 launch, acquiring many historic exhibits donated by the families of the boxers.

We have a coat that Sullivan wore to the ring in 1900, gloves worn by Jack Dempsey, shorts by Gene Tunney, the gloves worn by the Fighting Dentist Frank Moran when he fought Jack Johnson in Paris in 1914.

We also have the gloves Moran wore against Jess Willard two years later. The exhibition, to which I have donated a few special pieces, runs until November, when it moves on to Dublin.

The turnout in Omagh was overwhelming. I couldn't think of a more appropriate place to launch it and I was immensely proud to be involved.

On the same day I signed my second professional prospect, Carl Frampton, a 22-year-old featherweight from Belfast, who I believe will honour the Irish tradition with a world title.

He won bronze 10 days ago in a multi-nations tournament in the Czech Republic. He lost to the eventual winner, a Russian, who was out on his feet and fortunate to get to the final.

Before that Frampton won gold in another tournament in Istanbul. All the best fighters in the world were competing.

He has been part of the Irish high-performance programme for the last two years and would have gone to the Olympics had he not moved up from flyweight to feather.

He reminds me so much of myself at that age, totally dedicated with a brilliant attitude. He took the loss to the Russian in his stride despite the miscarriage of justice involved. And he loves to fight. He is a come-forward boxer.

He can punch short and long and has impressive power. He has got everything, a great attacking fighter who I'm convinced will go all the way.

He makes his debut pro debut in 10 days. Watch out for him.

CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE: www.barrymcguigan.com

CAPTION(S):

PROSPECT Frampton IRISH GREATS: Top: Dempsey, Corbett. Centre: Braddock, Tunney. Bottom: Moran, Sullivan. Top left: Our man McGuigan in action
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 30, 2009
Words:586
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