Carl Frampton explains the stark reality of boxing and sectarianism in Belfast
"I just wouldn't have mixed with them."
Carl Frampton is known as a sporting hero who accomplished great things in the boxing ring, but also for representing unity for a country that is often divided.
The former two weight world champion grew up in Tigers Bay in Belfast, an area that is predominately made up of people from the Unionist and Protestant communities.
Throughout Frampton's youth in the '90s and early 2000s, The Troubles were still rife, as riots, shootings, and sectarian attacks caused deep division in the city.
Even sport was affected by this, as things like football and rugby would remain segregated, and in an area like Tigers Bay, the Belfast brawler was never going to get many opportunities to mix with the nationalist community.
However, boxing famously did more than most to cross that divide during these times, and although it still wasn't perfect, the sport acted as a gateway for Frampton to walk over that bridge and integrate himself.
Carl Frampton on sectarianism in Belfast and how boxing combated that.
In an exclusive interview with SportsJOE's Lee Costello, The Jackal talks about his new book Carl Frampton: My Autobiography and explains why boxing was vital in helping him mix with other communities.
"I think boxing is one of the sports that gets a bit of a bye-ball in terms of being non-sectarian, but in saying that there has been sectarian things that has happened in boxing, so it's not completely free of it, but you just get a bit of a path for it.
"It was my way of integration with kids from the Catholic community, otherwise I wouldn't have been doing that until I was in a job somewhere when I was 16 or whatever.
"I just wouldn't have mixed with them in Tigers Bay, and growing up where I grew up - you're influenced by the people who are in your area.
"Obviously you are influenced by your parents, but you can also be influenced by the wrong people who grow up in your area too, so you're kind of just made to believe that these guys that live across the street, on the other side of that wall, they hate you and you hate them.
"Boxing was my way out of that, and that was why I had a different kind of outlook than other people."
We all know that that Frampton went on to conquer to weight divisions, headline big shows in Las Vegas and New York, earning millions in the process, all thanks to boxing - but the impact that the sport had on his early life turned out to be just as significant.
How integration with nationalist community shaped Carl Frampton's life.
The Tigers Bay battler fought for the Ireland boxing team in adolescent years, and befriended future Olympic medalist Paddy Barnes, a Catholic from a nationalist side of Belfast.
Although their upbringings were very different, they became very close friends, with Barnes even being Best Man at Frampton's wedding.
The wedding itself is even more telling, as the bride to be that day was of course his now wife, Christine Frampton, a Catholic from Poleglass, somewhere that is regarded as a Republican hotbed in the city.
Through boxing Frampton was able to break the shackles of division, meet people he otherwise never would have, and it opened many doors to the successful life that he now leads today.
The Northern Ireland native speaks about his upbringing, meeting his wife, having children, and his incredible boxing career in his new book Carl Frampton: My Autobiography which is available now online, or in all good book stores.
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