Carl Frampton: Don't call me a hero, yet
Spend just a short time in the presence of Carl Frampton and you realise that he loves Northern Ireland. Now he can sense that Northern Ireland loves him.
Boxing is a business in which many would like you to view it through smoke and mirrors and that includes ticket sales. Fighters with big reputations, even world champions being seen as popular sportsmen but the reality at the box office suggesting something else entirely.
Frampton is the real deal in more ways than one. His fighting ability and tenacity cannot be questioned and now he is drawing support that has even surprised him because he is a genuine, straight talking Belfast man whose humility splices virtually every conversation.
Hence, his European super-bantamweight title defence with Jeremy Parodi on Saturday night at the Odyssey Arena is close to a sell-out of 8,200 and his status as a Northern Ireland sporting hero would seem to be complete – though Frampton is keen to point out that in his mind that is not the case.
"I'm not a hero yet, I have a while to get there, but when I win the world title then I'll think about being regarded as a hero," said Frampton.
"Already I have a lot of kids who look up to me which is great.
"It's amazing to have the support that I have now, not too many boxers in Britain have it.
"Tyson Fury needs Haye to have a big crowd, Carl Froch does have that support, Kell Brook doesn't do those kind of ticket sales and even Amir Khan would struggle.
"I think the people here know their boxing and they know that I am close to a world title fight and I'm an exciting fighter who can punch hard and people want to see that.
"I feel really privileged, I have a real sense of pride and I think the fans have a sense of pride in me. The atmosphere is going to be pretty special and after this you have to think we will have to go to Seaview or even Ravenhill for a world title fight because there's not another indoor arena big enough.
"And because of this support I want to give performances they can be proud of.
"When I was a kid of course you would dream of being a professional but I'm not sure that I could have imagined this kind of support and excitement.
"I don't think there has been this kind of interest and this support for a fighter since Barry (McGuigan) and I don't want to sound bumptious but not many have had this kind of support so it's a real honour.
"I know with this support we can bring world title fights here but if I have to travel I don't care, I'll fight them in their own back yard because I just want to be world champion."
There is also a spin-off from Frampton's box-office appeal which he feels equally proud of and that is the fact that Cyclone Promotions – of which he is a part – can offer opportunities to other local fighters.
This is reflected in title fights for Belfast prospects Jamie Conlan and Marc McCullough as well as Dungiven's Eamonn O'Kane.
Frampton added: "Being able to help others means a lot to me. There's a lot of good prospects coming through and there's some very exciting fights on the bill and if I wasn't on the bill I would want to be going to the show.
"It's an opportunity for the lads to progress and it's nice that I can help them – some of them are my friends. I did it when I came through on Paul McCloskey's bills and it's the way boxing works – like Dave McAuley and Hugh Russell coming through on Barry's bills.
"The local fighters need chances and I hope they can go on and win big titles."
Frampton, who embraced the latest cheers from those at the public work-out at Victoria Square yesterday, knows he is edging ever closer to a world title shot but despite being a hot favourite to handle the threat of Frenchman Parodi, he is adamant that he will not allow complacency to bring about his downfall.
"This is a big chance for Parodi, he wants to get the chance to fight the winner of the world title fight between Jeffrey Mathebula and Kiko Martinez in december.
"Parodi has a good aggressive style which should make for a good fight. I'm getting so close to where I want to be that I won't be taking anything for granted.
"My training could not have gone any better, I'm feeling very strong and I've done over a hundred rounds of sparring. So I just have to to get the job done."