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There's no putting out the fire in my belly, says Carl Frampton

By David Kelly

The jagged edge of steel behind the charming smile tells you it's fight week for Carl Frampton. The inner beast is rising, the ruthless mind forged in the Midland amateur boxing club is in place as he counts down to the moment he must cut down the threat of Nonito Donaire.

Frampton's popularity is copper-fastened by sell-out crowds at the SSE Arena and queues for autographs when he goes shopping with wife Christine but was founded on a rock of success, which was fractured last January at the hands of Leo Santa Cruz. Tomorrow night, he has the opportunity to seal the cracks and serve notice on the doubters.

The moment arrives after a 12-week camp within which he had the background noise of the start of a court case with former manager Barry McGuigan. But that, he insists, will have no bearing on his performance against Donaire - a man for whom he has great respect.

It is the deep reserves of mental tenacity that have allowed the Jackal to drive through difficulties inside and outside the ring and he believes they will enable him to once more stand on top of the featherweight division. Speak to his former amateur coach Billy McKee and he will tell you it was there from the beginning - along with his ferocious power - and that's why little Carl was pitched in with bigger lads in the embryonic stages of learning his craft.

"Mentally I am very determined, maybe I was just born with it. There has always been something inside me - that real drive, the competitiveness in everything I do. I have to win," said Frampton, whose world title aspirations are on the line against Donaire in the SSE Arena tomorrow night.

"It doesn't matter whether I'm playing with the kids or going into a big fight with Nonito Donaire, the competitor comes out - even to the point when I'm playing Connect 4 or Buckaroo with my daughter Carla, I have to beat her and it drives my wife Christine mad, she rages at me.

"As a sportsman, the mind is so important and I suppose I am fortunate that I know when to switch it on and at the same time I am able to switch off until it's time to go. People get worried about opponents, they can allow things to distract them but I'm pretty good at keeping things calm, controlling the controllables as they say.

"I know that if I have prepared well and done all I have then I win the fight. I suppose I have always been pretty good that way but it has also got better. People who are around me leading up to a fight can see that, they see it in the dressing room just how calm I am."

The strong mentality is allied to the straight talking persona that was bolstered by dad Craig and coach McKee as they played a dual role in his development through the highs and lows as an amateur.

"My dad has been a big influence on me. He stays in the background, that's just his character and I like that. He lets people who know what they're doing get on with it," added Frampton.

"But I know he is always there for me. If I have needed advice he has been there for me. It's the little things that count - I know that night or day if I needed something he would be there for me and that's important. Even something as simple as tape for my bandages, if I was arriving home off the plane and needed them he would get on a bus and get them - he has never learned to drive.

"We're similar personalities, quite laid back but when there's something to be said he'll say it. He's also someone who has always been very determined to help people out, he's straight down the line - there's no rubbish. It's the same with Billy McKee. When Billy speaks he has something to say, it's not just noise."

That same defiant determination has also allowed him to make big decisions outside the ring and it has come as no surprise just how well Frampton seems to have gelled with coach Jamie Moore, another straight talking boxing man.

"Overall Jamie has been a great influence, as has the whole set-up in Manchester. There's a good balance between getting the hard work done and still being able to enjoy the experience. The craic in the gym is great and you need that release because this is such an intense and at times lonely sport.

"This is the most professional camp I've had throughout my career. Every box has been ticked, I have been tested at the start of the camp, during it and at the end. I've been closer to the weight a week out than I have been in a long while and I feel stronger than ever.

"It's never easy making weight but I'm very happy with how everything has gone. I can't remember one bad day in the gym."

That is the way it had to be ahead of facing a man with the pedigree of Donaire. Some will argue that at 35 his best days are behind him but the Northern Ireland hero is adamant that he has not allowed such thoughts to cross his mind.

"When you look at the featherweight division, Donaire (below) has achieved more than the current world champions as well as myself in terms of accolades," he said.

"In terms of knockout power in the featherweight division he is as big a puncher as WBO champion Oscar Valdez and myself - I wouldn't rate Lee Selby, Leo Santa Cruz or Gary Russell as dangerous punchers in the same way.

"He could be the hardest puncher I've ever faced and certainly the biggest puncher since I fought Kiko Martinez.

"He has been the biggest puncher so far but Donaire is a more correct and faster puncher.

"Kiko could probably lift more in the gym but because of Donaire's technique he has a KO reel that every fighter would envy."

Defiant and determined as ever, Frampton is burning with desire to deliver a performance that will lead to his coveted big night at Windsor Park.

Donaire is not short on character himself so the clash of Tigers Bay titanium and Filipino steel surely cannot fail to give the 9,000 roaring supporters a night to remember.

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