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People's champion Carl Frampton carries the hopes of a nation

And if Frampton's under pressure, he certainly wasn't showing it in public

By David Kelly

Walking through the crowd at Victoria Square, Carl Frampton's relaxed persona stood out like a beacon as just about everyone else around seemingly felt the increased tension that naturally permeates every moment leading up to a major fight.

Cameras, television crews, journalists and a host of fans all wanted a piece of the little man who carries the hopes of a nation going into the showdown with IBF World super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez at Titanic Quarter.

In the middle of the maelstrom the two combatants had the briefest of handshakes, catching each other's eye with a knowing nod that acknowledged somebody's life will change in the open air arena on Saturday night.

Frampton moved from one interview to the other with ease and every photo and autograph was met with all the poise of someone on a Sunday stroll and not three days away from the biggest night of his life.

The hyperbole is being cranked up daily and the 27-year-old admits he can sense the level of expectation surrounding him becoming World champion.

For some it would be a burden and many fighters at this point would be naturally tetchy and edgy, but not Frampton.

"I love this, love fight week – I love the buzz, I relish it," says Frampton with a smile as he hands back yet another signed glove.

"When you look at the arena, the way it's set up, it's just amazing. Really, you could hardly dream of a better venue for a World title fight.

"To be fighting for the World title about a mile from my front door is just incredible. You can actually see the venue from my mum and dad's house.

"I know people think it's just a case of me turning up to win the World title but that's far from the case, boxing isn't like that.

"This is going to be a very tough fight but I'm ready and I'm loving the build-up."

Kiko's brief work-out was watched over by coach Gaby Sarmiento, brother of Pablo, who was in the champion's corner 18 months ago when the Spaniard came up short in the Odyssey Arena.

Sarmiento has naturally examined the first encounter between two of the hardest punchers in the super-bantamweight division and is adamant that Frampton and his supporters are going to be left heartbroken.

"I thought it was a winnable fight the first time but there was no game plan or strategy. I was not in the corner that time, if I had been it would have been a different fight. My brother only had 15 days with him, that wasn't enough for him to do anything," said Sarmiento, whose right arm carries a tattoo stating WBC Trainer of the Year, 2010.

"For the quality of Frampton you need a two-month training camp. This is not the same Kiko Martinez, he has improved so much – boxing ability, speed and power, he has more movement – he's an all round better fighter."

The Argentinian, who coaches Kiko's promoter and former World middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, also jabbed out a further little warning to Team Frampton. "The last re-match I prepared for was Sergio Martinez for the second fight with Paul Williams..." Williams was knocked out in two rounds having previously outpointed Martinez.

Just how much significance that will have come Saturday night remains to be seen but it is clear that part of Sarmiento's job will be to keep his charge calm as the opening bell draws ever closer as last time the Belfast crowd unnerved the Spaniard.

Such an effort is neither required by Frampton or his team as the honed Jackal counts down to what could be one of the greatest nights of his life.

"I've always been calm, it's just the way I am. It's not something that I have to work at or consciously say to myself to be calm. Some guys need sports psychologists but I've been like this since I started boxing," says Frampton.

"Shane and Barry have been drilling it into me with every training session, every pad session to be focused, 100%, and not take my eye off the ball at all. So if I focus like that then there's only going to be one winner.

"The point of the matter is that I'm coming here to do a job. I know what I can do; I've seen what I've been doing in training and in sparring with bigger guys than Kiko Martinez, and in some cases better guys than Kiko Martinez. I have prepared relentlessly for this."

Time to satiate the final autograph hunters and head back to the hotel which is home for fight week and enjoy a good dinner.

Weight making is not an issue for the Tiger's Bay machine, but then nothing seems to be – not even a hard-hitting World champion determined to take his revenge.

Belfast Telegraph

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