FOLLOWING his heroics in Riyadh on Saturday night, Anthony Cacace landed back in Belfast on Monday morning to a hero's reception.

Media, friends, family and fans all gathered at George Best City Airport to welcome home Belfast's latest world champion and the 'Andytown Apache' emerged through the arrivals' door with the IBO belt on one shoulder and his newly-acquired IBF super-featherweight title on the other.

A naturally quiet and laid back person, the fact that there was a turnout for his arrival was a surprise to the 35-year-old who posed for photos with well-wishers that included Belfast's last world champion, Ryan Burnett.

"I'm over the moon," said Cacace.

"I'm so happy at this reception down here. I actually can't believe it as I didn't know I was so popular, but I'm buzzing."

His performance and victory on such a huge night for boxing will boost his profile like never before as Cacace is no longer just a well-known figure to fight fans, but the wider public who were tuning in for the 'Ring of Fire' card in Saudi Arabia that was topped by Oleksandr Usyk's superb victory over Tyson Fury in the undisputed heavyweight title showdown. But Belfast was rejoicing earlier in the night as their man claimed world honours and now, Cacace can reap the benefits in terms of legacy and also financially.

If Eduardo Nunez is not installed as his immediate mandatory challenger, then a unification is what Cacace would like next against either Lamont Roach Jr (WBA), O'Shaquie Foster (WBC) or Emanuel Navarette who still holds the WBO title despite losing in a lightweight title fight to Denys Berinchyk on Saturday.

"I'm still in shock, swear to God, it still hasn't sunk in," Cacace added.

"This is what I've dreamt of and this is going to chance my kids life. Financially, obviously it's a big thing, but I'm looking forward to the next step and hopefully fight for the WBC or WBA one.

"Lamont Roach (WBA champion) is fighting Feargal McCrory, another Irish lad, and I'm praying Feargal does the job because he deserves it and there's another potential fight. Any of the champions, I'm ready to rock."

The rest of the division was put on notice thanks to his performance on Saturday as he produced a career-best display of power, grit and ring craft.

He also did it despite carrying a rib injury that was kept under wraps, but with this his golden opportunity, there was no way he wasn't leaving it all in the ring by taking the scorecards out of the equation.

"I've said before, I feel like I needed to do that," he reiterated.

"I don't think I could have won that on points, the way boxing is. I said before I went out that if he's going to beat me, he's going to have to put me to sleep and he didn't - I got him.

"I had plenty of injuries for this one. It's usually the hands, but then one thing clears and another thing happens. I had bruised ribs for a few weeks but it was fine by the time I got to the fight. These things happen but I always find a way."

The game-plan was devised by the Holy Trinity team headed by Micky Hawkins who may not be known for his work with professionals, but once his old charge requested his help, there was only going to be one answer.

"I did a wee bit with Damaen Kelly so I know the game, but didn't think I'd be doing a professional corner," said Hawkins on Monday.

"Once Anto asked me, it was very hard to refuse."

Cacace with head coach, Micky Hawkins

Cacace with head coach, Micky Hawkins

Cacace was also keen to stress the impact his old amateur coaches at St Oliver Plunkett had on his career with Patsy McAllister and Anto Taylor name-checked for the work they put into him from when he walked through the doors of the South Link club aged just eight.

And South Link where the family home sits was his first port of call once exiting the airport on Monday as the celebrations kick into gear.

Suggestions of an open-top bus were shot down by Cacace who is happier away from the limelight, but that may be tricky as he is now the toast of the town.

"I'm not famous and don't want to be," he countered.

"I just want to be a champion and whatever it brings, it brings. I appreciate everyone who came down here and turned out for me, writing to me online, wishing me well and telling me how proud they are - I appreciate every one of them.

"We're going to go on a nice holiday and relax for a while because it's been a really intense 10-week training camp.

"I didn't take one rest day over those 10 weeks, been full on. My body feels alright, but I'm just mentally drained and need some time to chill."