This is my time, vows Jamie Conlan ahead of SSE Arena World title fight
Jaime Conlan describes them as the "dark days" when it seemed at every turn his career was hitting a roadblock. On Saturday night he steps into the light of what every fighter craves, a world title shot on home soil.
Conlan, brother of World amateur champion Michael, will be centre stage at Belfast's SSE Arena along with former amateur opponent and two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.
Both started their professional careers in 2009 but their paths to the top of the sport have been in stark contrast - Frampton enjoying a carefully guided route, while Conlan has marched through the valleys and rough terrain.
Now, at 31, he is just days away from challenging Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines for his IBF World super-flyweight title, having last year been in the fight of the year with Anthony Nelson when lifting the Commonwealth title.
It's a long way from boxing after midnight in the SSE in February 2013. Frampton was preparing for his post-fight press conference having just had lift-off with his stunning stoppage of Kiko Martinez to take the Spaniard's European title as Conlan found the finishing punch to stop a game Mike Robinson.
"I had personally sold 500 tickets, Robinson was the best guy I had fought at that point and I expected that night to be lift-off for me as well. I was sure that British or Commonwealth titles would be next but I didn't fight for another eight months and the momentum in my career was lost again," said Conlan, who was forced to work on a building site at one point to make ends meet despite being highly ranked.
"I had some very dark days and there were two or three occasions when I talked to my dad and my former coach John Breen and said I just felt like chucking it in. Boxing is so hard mentally and I felt up until the last three years that I was always chasing everything and having to deal with false promises and let-downs.
"Like one time I was fighting on a Frank Maloney show and was told it was going to be for the British title. I spent eight weeks in camp and then two weeks out from the fight I was told it wasn't for the British title but it would be a six rounder. It was to be against Paul Edwards who happened to be trained by Danny Vaughan, who's now my coach, and he told me that the fight had never been agreed.
"I remember John Breen telling me the news that I wasn't fighting for the title and it was like a death in the family. My head was all over the place, I just had a real sickening feeling about the whole business. To succeed in boxing you have to be so driven, so mentally strong and unless you're in this business you really don't know how hard it is.
"If your face doesn't fit you don't get a chance or if you don't have big international amateur success then it's going to be a tough road. I'm grateful to my dad and John for encouraging me to keep going because at one point I didn't think I'd get a Commonwealth title shot never mind a world title shot."
Conlan is naturally relishing the opportunity of dethroning Ancajas who will start as the favourite when the lights go down at the SSE Arena.
"When I heard that there were negotiations to make the fight I didn't get overly excited, I tried to stay grounded because I know what boxing is like and sure enough at one point I was told it was highly unlikely the fight was going to happen. Then it turned around and the deal was done but it wasn't until the press conference that it really sunk in.
"I have the chance to achieve my dream, it's what I've always wanted and I know that I will win this fight. It's my time."