The Pride of Belfast

The plague of the writer is creative block. Sometimes inspiration comes at you effortlessly, but other times it’s as elusive as hen’s teeth. I must confess that I don’t put a huge amount of preparation into my blogs. Instead, I rely on instinct and intuition to guide me through. Every writer is different. Many rely on painstaking research and planning to ensure they consistently produce their best work. I don’t work like that. I never have. In fact, I find that if I put too much thought and planning into my writing, it constrains and restricts me. Excessive planning impedes my creative process.

I once attended a creative writing course and the lecturer insisted that good writing should be meticulously planned and prepared to be most effective. Structure was the key, she maintained. And yet I’ve never written that way. How odd! I must break every rule in the book. For example, while preparing a blog, I often do some limited reading on the subject matter, mainly checking that my understanding of the given topic is accurate. Thereafter, I typically write five or six words on a piece of paper. The blog then flows from that handful of concise ideas. I sit down at my keyboard and let the ideas flow, and see where that takes me. Much like I’m doing right now, in fact. Interestingly, the piece that materialises is often quite different to the one originally conceived! And it sometimes comes out better, probably because I haven’t put too much thought into it.  The end product is the result of a weird form of alchemy, or maybe it’s madness! I don’t often decide on my blog topic until quite late in the week. Sometimes the topic is obvious and a blog just invites itself to be written. My blogs about Muhammad Ali and Brexit were cases in point-the two most popular pieces, incidentally. Other times, inspiration is sorely absent. It just seems impossible to find anything worthwhile to write about. This week was such an occasion. I’d no inspiration, no focus, no impetus. Then Carl Frampton won the world featherweight title in New York. Bingo!

I didn’t stay up to watch it, but managed to sneak a replay on Sunday. In the eagerness of youth, I regularly sat up to watch big fights, but 4:00 a.m. is pushing it these days. I’m glad I caught the replay, though. It was a terrific fight. The contest ebbed and flowed, with the Belfast boxer racking up a handsome early lead. Then champion Leo Santa Cruz stormed back into the fight, with a display typified by monumental heart and skill in equal measure. The best moments happened when the fighters went toe-to-toe. It was brutal stuff. It was also supremely courageous. This bout wasn’t for the faint of heart. When the final bell tolled after 12 gruelling rounds, fatigue and exertion was etched on the faces of both men. The scars of war laid bare for all to see. I don’t watch boxing as much as I used to, but there’s no doubt this was a tremendous fight. As good as I’ve seen in my years watching the noble art. It seemed close, too close to call. I thought Frampton had done enough to sneak it, but couldn’t be confident. Santa Cruz had been busy, however Frampton’s shots were much more accurate and precise; his work possessed superior quality. The judges evidently agreed with my assessment, awarding the contest to Frampton on a split points decision. “And the new……” It was a brilliant moment, one the Belfast man thoroughly deserved. History was made in Brooklyn, with the boy from Tiger’s Bay becoming the first Irish fighter to win world titles at different weights since Steve Collins-Collins won at middle and super-middleweight for those keeping score.

Frampton’s achievement is quite superb. Saturday’s win is both historic and prestigious. What makes his victory all the more laudable, though, is that Carl is such a nice guy. The Belfast boxer is a fine role model, one who represents his city and country with distinction. And it’s all carried with sincere modesty and humility. He’s genuine. That’s not Frampton’s best virtue, though. For me, the best thing about the new featherweight champ is his inclusiveness. He unifies us. Much like his manager and mentor Barry McGuigan, Carl unites in a society that’s historically been divided. No section of the community can claim Carl as their own, though. This likeable sportsman brings us together in a way that even today is still depressingly rare. When Frampton fights, there’s no boring talk of flags or anthems, just a simple, humble message that the entire community rallies around. 30 years ago, Irish boxing united in support of “Our Barry”. Nationalists, Unionists, Loyalists, and Republicans came together in a time of great strife to roar on the Clones Cyclone in the King’s Hall. In 2016, similarly, all sections of society unite in support of “Our Carl”. Thanks to our post-Troubles society, the context is mercifully different these days, but the spirit of inclusiveness and togetherness is the same. Diverse people from a variety of backgrounds united in common cause. Screaming for Carl. Just like the legions of Irish-Americans roaring for Frampton on Saturday.  So next time you hear someone speak of our supposedly divided society, think of Carl Frampton. A shining example that it doesn’t have to be that way. On Saturday night, when asked to consider the magnitude of his achievement and his legacy, Frampton understandably struggled to put it into words. Over time he may have a more eloquent response, but in assessing his win, the new champion suggested the victory meant he  won’t have to buy a pint for twenty years. Given the scale of his success, though, one ventures the pride of Belfast won’t need to purchase a beer in his native city ever again.

Twitter: @RoryMcGimpsey

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