Carl Frampton stirred but not shaken by mind games
Carl Frampton was happy to be the matador as the Spanish bull to his left snorted venomous intent at the final press conference ahead of their highly anticipated battle at the Odyssey Arena.
The mind games started in earnest as European super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez dismissed the challenge of Frampton, insisting the Belfast man's world title aspirations will turn to dust.
Martinez likes to do battle up close and personal so the last thing he wants is for this finely honed challenger to take a backward step.
"I've prepared properly and with the champion's mentality so I have come here because Frampton was too scared to come to Spain. I have come here to shut Frampton's mouth once and for all, he's talked too much and I hope that on Saturday he comes to box and not to run," snarled Martinez.
"Frampton didn't want to leave Belfast, he wanted to fight here and I have always fought away and that shows I'm not the coward they say I am. I have never been afraid to fight anywhere.
"They're trying to sell in Belfast something that doesn't exist, Carl Frampton is not a good boxer. He and his team know that I'm a lot stronger than anybody else he has met, I'm not one of the bodies you've had."
Clearly Team Martinez are keen to light a fuse under Commonwealth/IBF inter-continental champion Frampton and for a moment it seemed to have the desired effect, though the Jackal was also quick to retort with humour.
"I have been waiting 18 months for us to fight, this time he has showed up but all I'll say is that European title is a bit like his hair – he's losing it!" said the 25-year-old.
Frampton knows that the Spaniard is a step up from previous opponents but while Martinez wants to draw him into a slugfest to unsettle him, the Tiger's Bay man is intent on doing it his way – winning the battle of the mind and body.
"He can certainly talk, he seems to forget he pulled out twice... he wants me to have a fight, thinks he can out-man me.
"I will fight him on my terms, I'm an all-round better fighter than him and I think he's underestimating just hard I can punch.
"And we'll see after the first round after I hit him, I'll look into his eyes and then see just how eager he is for a fight, how much he wants it. Kiko has fought half decent fighters and any time he has come up against a good fighter he's got beat.
"I'm the first world class fighter he has fought and we'll see what he's like on Saturday night
"The way he's talking he seems to think he's the Spanish Hulk Hogan, he thinks he's the toughest man in Spain but we'll see what he's like when he gets hit the hardest he's ever been hit in his life."
Then leaning across and looking straight at the champion, Frampton added: "I'll out-fight ya, I'll out-box ya, I'll out-punch ya, I'll do whatever you want...
"I wanted to fight you 18 months ago in my 11th fight when you were European champion and now I'm going into my 16th fight and you're just going to get a worse beating."
It all came together to set up one of the most anticipated fights for some time and there is clearly a growing swirl of opinion among not just the local boxing fraternity but the public at large that Frampton may just have the armoury to go all the way to boxing's summit.
In contrast, Martinez and team are suggesting that Frampton has come as far as he can and that the bubble will burst tonight in emphatic style.
The Spaniard's new coach Pablo Sarmiento snapped: "Carl Frampton for the first time is facing up to a good boxer because all the rest of the opponents that he has had have been bodies. He's now going to fight a very good boxer and he will be knocked out."
So the stage has been set and the champion can expect a hot reception when he makes his way to the ring at around 10pm with the ice cool Belfast matador waiting under the Odyssey spotlight to prove he is the genuine article.