It is not clear exactly how many passionate Northern Irish boxing fans filled in their ESTA application, booked their flights, and headed across the Atlantic to the Leo Santa Cruz vs Carl Frampton world title fight which took place at the weekend, but estimates are in the thousands.
After having his unbeaten record, not to mention his WBA Super Featherweight title, taken from him by Ulsterman Frampton, Mexican American Santa Cruz exclaimed his surprise at just how many supporters Frampton had taken with him to the fight – and they cheered every significant punch.
It was the night that Frampton made the step from respected former world champion to a still undefeated, two-weight title-holder and legitimate boxing superstar. From the opening bell it was clear that although Santa Cruz is one of the best fighters in the world, Frampton had the edge, out-timing and in some cases out-powering his rival, himself a three-weight world champion.
Frampton insisted he wants to come back and fight in the United States after another taste of the action in front of the US TV audience from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He has many fans that won’t mind saving for another trip, as well as a huge number of Irish American boxing fans in the States who can also lend their support.
An unforgettable evening, which saw Frampton win by way of a majority decision, was reminiscent of the Ricky Hatton nights in Las Vegas, when the likeable Mancunian brought droves of fans over with him from the UK to cheer him on against the likes of Luis Collazo, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao.
It also capped a brilliant sporting summer for Northern Ireland, who punched above their weight in the Euro 2016 football champions, reaching the Round of 16 to the delight of their fans in France and back home.
Frampton won the same belt that was once held by another sporting hero of the country, Barry McGuigan, who triumphed 31 years ago in 1985 against Eusebio Pedroza at the Loftus Road football ground in a fight that was watched by an incredible 18 million strong TV audience.
If you are considering becoming a member of the ‘Frampton Army’, you are likely to need an ESTA visa to travel to the US. Read more here.