Three-time Olympic boxer and two-time bronze medallist Paddy Barnes is just over a fortnight away from making his bow in the professional ranks, when he'll throw down in front of a packed house at the Titanic Centre in his native Belfast.
Speaking to Balls.ie, the 29-year-old amateur boxing icon explained that the transition to the paid game has been relatively seamless thus far, and that he believes he'll be on the precipice of world honours this time next year.
I'm excited. I have to train that little bit harder, because I know there's going to be a really big crowd there - a home crowd. I get the chance to fight in Belfast, and I'm really looking forward to it.
To be honest, people keep asking me about this big change, but it hasn't really changed much. I've done the World Series of Boxing, I've got a professional style, and it's six rounds where I've done five. So the only difference is going to be the small gloves - nothing else will be new to me. I've fought on shows like this before, fought in front of bigger crowds.
Whether I'm fighting for an amateur title or a world title, I'll still have those exact same nerves - no matter how big or small it is. I'll never get too far ahead of myself. I'll make sure I'm focused on this fight and each and every fight afterwards.
Considering his aforementioned pro-ready style and vast experience, Barnes has been tipped by many Irish boxing scribes to progress rapidly as a professional. He'll need to be fast-tracked by Frank Warren and co, as fellow amateur icons Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vasyl Lomachenko were before him, and has the pure boxing ability to skip much of the developmental process which sees so many talents knock out tomato cans for three years before stepping up to continental or world-level.
Indeed, he demands a rapid ascent of his handlers, and explained that were it not for some difficulties outside of the ropes, he would have been fighting for the highly-regarded Celtic Title on his debut.
I know I'm going to be fast-tracked. I asked for it. Frank Warren and MGM agree with me.
Actually, in my first fight, they had planned for me to fight for a Celtic title, which would have been an eight-round fight. But I couldn't do it because I haven't really been able to train properly; my fiancé is in hospital for the last month as she's pregnant. So I haven't had a proper camp. Because of that, I had to actually turn down that title fight in my first fight.
But after we have a baby and everything is ok, I'll be basing myself in England, training properly and aiming for titles straight away.
Speaking of fast-tracked, you may have heard that Barnes' old mate Mick Conlan will be making his own professional debut when he headlines an Irish-themed boxing event at Madison Square Garden, New York on St. Patrick's Weekend. Conlan recently revealed to Irish-boxing.com that both he and promoters Top Rank are keen to have Barnes fight on the same card, and Barnes himself confirmed to Balls that he will fight alongside his former Irish teammate at MSG, explaining how a simple Twitter interaction opened the door to his own Big Apple bow:
As soon as Mick signed with Top Rank, that night, [VP of Boxing Ops for Top Rank] Carl Moretti followed me on Twitter. I wrote to him saying that I better be on the card, and he laughed. But I can actually confirm now that I'll be on that bill in New York.
The notion of watching Barnes and Conlan light up Pennsylvania Plaza will have Irish boxing fans across the island rubbing their hands in feverish anticipation, but a Belfast card featuring Barnes, Michael Conlan and Conlan's older brother Jamie - the undefeated Commonwealth champion - would be a potential watershed moment for the sport on this island.
Not since the Bernard Dunne days has Irish boxing possessed a truly tanscendant figure on both sides of the border, but a bill - or bills - featuring Belfast's three amigos would go some way to catapulting boxing back up the Irish sporting pecking order, particularly if broadcast on terrestrial television.
RTÉ has become an almost taboo subject to pugilistic enthusiasts in recent years, but Barnes is insistent that he and the Conlans would provide sufficiently compelling viewing for the folks at Montrose to reopen the doors to the pro game once more.
Mick is scheduled to fight in Ireland once a year, and Jamie Conlan is nearly at a world title shot. I feel myself that I'll be close to a world title shot next year. When Mick comes back, I think RTÉ will jump on board. Or at least I hope RTÉ jump on board, or another Irish tv station do.
They need to get behind us and showcase us in front of everyone in Ireland. That itself will drive people to come watch us and will promote the sport even more. RTÉ is the national broadcaster, so it'd be great to have them behind us. Look, let's be honest... Watching the three of us would be more entertaining than watching The Late Late Show.
Unless he's sat next to Tubridy himself, of course.
Tickets for Paddy Barnes' professional debut in Belfast are available here, and the event - also including Jamie Conlan and a mouth-watering all-Irish clash between Tyrone McKenna and Sean Creagh - will be broadcast on BoxNation.