Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton has captured the hearts and minds of local fight fans and his appeal will only grow and grow in the coming months.
Over 8,500 fans will pack into the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night to cheer on Frampton in his European title defence and IBF World title eliminator against Jeremy Parodi of France.
Add to that the crowds that turned out for the public work-out and press conference this week and you can see that Frampton is causing a buzz around Belfast and beyond.
And the Tigers Bay Super-bantamweight is also a PR man’s dream.
He wins fights – which is the most important thing – but he is also intelligent, articulate, a family man and promotes a positive image of Belfast and Northern Ireland – which is sometimes not the easiest thing to do!
The people are warming to Frampton, and how many of the thousands at the Odyssey tonight are die-hard boxing fans?
I would say there is a 50/50 split and that is good for Frampton, but it is also good for boxing on these shores that people who have a passing interest in the sport are going along to attend a boxing event.
‘The Jackal’ is causing a stir and as long as he keeps winning and knocking out opponents, the hype, the following, and the size of the crowd will grow and grow until the Odyssey will be deemed too small.
His stock is rising, and former World champions are coming out one-by-one and saying Frampton is the real deal.
Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley – who won the IBF Flyweight World title and defended it five times – is one who believes Frampton has all the tools to go the whole way.
McAuley knows his stuff and he has high hopes for the Belfast star.
“He has a wee bit of everything. He can box, he can fight, he can bang. He can fight on the back foot, he can fight coming forward.
“He can also take a shot, but the thing I like most about him is that he can think his way through a fight. He can change things and fight in a number of different ways.
“Not many can do that. I watched the first minute of his fight against Kiko Martinez and I knew he was going to win.
“He is a talent and they must go for a World title now, when the iron is hot,” added McAuley.
Some – not me – could argue with McAuley’s views, but another World champion from these shores – Wayne McCullough – agrees with his assessment of Frampton.
“He is a great kid and he will go a long way. I am one hundred percent behind him and he has the tools to make it to the very top.
“I met him in Belfast for coffee and he is a great guy. He was also very modest but you could see that he was determined to make it to the top,” added McCullough.
And even if you think those two are off beam with their judgement, Steve Collins – a man not to be messed with – is also a Frampton fan.
“He will go far and he will be around for a long time. He has more abiilty and talent than I ever had.
“He is a fantastic boxer, and as I said he will be around for a long time,” added the former two-time World champion.
And if McAuley, McCullough and Collins cannot convince you of Frampton’s talents, then maybe former WBA featherweight World Champion Barry McGuigan can help you on the way to becoming a believer.
“I have been saying from day one that he would become a World Champion and now people are beginning to believe me.
“I believe he has the talent to be a World champion at two different weights. He is that good,” said Frampton’s manager and promoter.
And it seems thousands of fans agree with the four legends of Irish boxing.
Frampton has something special and he looks set to deliver on that promise.
I for one remember going to the Europa Hotel a few years ago to hear McGuigan say he had found our next World Champion, and I remember thinking I had heard it all before.
But after meeting and speaking to Frampton that day I became a believer – and I am a cynical, bitter and twisted journalist from Ballymena.
It was not what he said that day – it was the way he said it.
Carl is not arrogant, and he lacks any kind of ego. But he believes he will fulfill his ambition and dream of becoming a World Champion and he is prepared to put in the work and lead the right life out of the ring to get there.
I have watched him fight and win in Cardiff, London, Sheffield, Nottingham and, of course, Belfast.
And I have witnessed the growth in the size of the crowd, the hype and the media attention as he racks up the victories.
Lots of things have changed in the last few months as Frampton punched his way – usually by knock-out – to the Celtic, Commonwealth, IBF Inter-Continetal and European titles – when he flattened Kiko Martinez in the ninth round.
The only thing that has not changed is Carl Frampton, and that tells you everything about the kid from just off the Shore Road.