Carl Frampton goes into Saturday's rematch with Leo Santa Cruz with a 23-0 record, as a double weight world champion and as The Ring magazine's 'Fighter of the Year'. Anyone who saw the first fight between Frampton and Santa Cruz will testify to how much of an uncompromising war it was. Needless to say Frampton is fairly battle-hardened at this stage.
But it wasn't always so.
Most of us who have never boxed can remember the first time we got into a fight as kids - in the school playground, on a pitch, even just with a sibling. The quickening of the heart and breath, the mind racing, the clumsy swings as we engage in unfamiliar combat. But what about boxers? One might think that boxers' memories of their first scrap inside a ring would be hazy, given how many times they have climbed through the ropes. But this isn't the case with Carl Frampton, it would seem.
Frampton was giving an interview to Donald McRae of the Guardian and he spoke about his first fight in a hotel just outside Portstewart when he was seven years-of-age.
One may assume that he's always had a certain fearlessness, that a young Frampton would step into the ring, look his opponent in the eye and feel only excitement. But no, Frampton said he was filled with trepidation ahead of the fight:
A few years ago I read about (the boy he fought). At least I think it was him. A newspaper report said he’d ended up in jail after stabbing another man. When I was seven he seemed so much tougher, rough and bigger than me. I was just a very wee boy shitting himself.
It was a bit terrifying, facing this kid...But then the bell rang and instinct took over. It was quite a hard fight. But I definitely got the better of him. The kid was backing away and I was tearing after him. I won that fight easily – even if they didn’t name a winner because it was just meant to be exhibition contests until you were 11. But it was a proper fight all right. And I loved it. Billy was proud of me and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Make sure you read the full interview with Carl Frampton by Donald McRae on the Guardian's website. Needless to say, it's excellent.