Carl Frampton on track to conquer the world
Carl Frampton leaned back, stroked his chin and pondered for a moment how far he has come and the distance he has still to travel for the gold at the end of the rainbow.
In his five years as a professional Frampton has remained as modest as he ever was, no different to the young teenager who walked into the Dockers Club with his kit bag and gloves over his shoulder alongside mentor Billy McKee to box in front of a couple of hundred people in the Co Antrim championships.
Just over a decade on and tomorrow night he walks into the Odyssey Arena with 9,000 all screaming his name and willing him to live out his dream.
In one sense he hasn't changed but in other ways, Frampton reveals that he has – as a fighter and as a person, putting that largely down to settling down with wife Christine and daughter Carla.
First and foremost for the 5ft 5' fighting machine from Tigers Bay, he puts his body on the line for Christine and Carla, to provide them with a comfortable life and then it is also about him achieving his goals in the most unforgiving of sports.
Hugo Cazarez stands in the way of those goals tomorrow night when they battle in a World Boxing Council super-bantamweight title final eliminator with the winner going forward to face reigning champion Leo Santa Cruz.
Frampton is confident the timing could not be better for such a challenge.
"I've become more determined, I've grown up a lot. I was quite immature but now I'm a more mature fighter and a more mature person and I'm serious about boxing," said Frampton.
"I kinda was but never 100%, this is a new level. I don't like to say it but I'd been maybe having a few drinks three weeks before a fight as an amateur and then starving myself to make weight. Now my whole life is around boxing.
"I read a good quote from Bernard Hopkins who's still winning world titles at 50 and he said that when he's at a party he's a boxer at a party and when he's out with his mates and they are drinking he's a boxer hanging out with his mates who happen to be drinking. You see everything he does, he's a boxer first and foremost and that's the way I see it now. You only get one chance in this business and if you slip up then your career could stall and you could get knocked back two years.
"And to be successful means there is a certain element of selfishness, you have to put yourself first and some would say it's quite selfish when I leave Christine and Carla. But you need to be sensible as well and it's a very, very short career you have in boxing.
"I'm 27 now, I'm right at the prime of my life, the next couple of years will be the best you'll see of me and Christine understands that and when I come home I try to make it up to her by spending as much time as possible and after this fight we'll go away together to Rome for a holiday.
"Being away is always hard and it's getting harder. Carla's a smart kid and she's aware of me being away now. But boxing is all I know, it's what I do and what I think I'm best at and this is the path I have to go down.
"I want to have a comfortable lifestyle now and after boxing. Other guys do it too, they have to work on oil rigs, there's people working 12 hour shifts, they get up and don't see their kids and by the time they get home they don't see their kids because they have gone to bed. This is my job and I have to do it."
What has also changed is that Frampton is no longer just a boxer but also part of Cyclone Promotions, headed up by former world champion and the Jackal's manager Barry McGuigan. Frampton added: "It's unusual, it doesn't happen with many fighters that they are part of the promotional set-up. It just made me believe more that these guys are looking after me. I get to see everything, all the decisions that get made I get asked about and I see all the figures – everything that is going in and out.
"Most fighters don't get to see that. Everything is transparent, these guys want me to be a world champion and make a lot of money and I think it's great that I'm part of the promotion."
The success of this show, featuring four title fights, will certainly help his bank balance but the real riches lie beyond Cazarez – defeat would make them seem a long way off.
"This is the biggest fight of my life, it means everything to me," he added. "This leads me to a world title fight, what I have always dreamed about and I have to win and I know I will," he adds with the will and desire in his voice that has never changed.