Northern Ireland’s first ever two-weight world champion Carl Frampton offered words of advice to Kevin Maree’s stable on his nostalgic return to the Stirk House.
Holding an audience at his former home, flanked by the professionals that hope to follow his example, the 30-year-old encouraged the residence’s current occupants to put everything into their art.
Knockout specialist Mark Heffron and unbeaten super welterweights Alex McCloy and Qasim Niaz are at a similar stage of their careers to what ‘The Jackal’ was before manager Barry McGuigan transferred his educational base to London with son, Shane.
First up, Maree’s 154lb pairing will feature at the Guild Hall in Preston on Saturday with McCloy heading in to his eighth contest on the back of victory over Kevin McCauley while ‘Qast Iron’ moves in to double figures.
Heffron, carrying the alias ‘Kid Dynamite’, fights for the first time since linking up with Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions on April 8th at the Manchester Arena having recently registered the 12th stoppage of his tenure.
Meanwhile, lightweight Michael Devine’s 22nd pro bout will bring the first defence of his Southern Area title against Jamie Arlain on April 22nd at York Hall.
“This is a hard game; you can’t be half in, half out,” said Frampton. “You’ve got to be completely dedicated to it no matter what level you’re at. If you want to get to the top - without sounding too much like Floyd Mayweather - it’s all hard work and dedication.
“It’s an old saying but it’s true. It’s a sport where you can’t be half in, half out. You need to give it your all. You don’t play boxing.
“No matter what level you want to get to - Area title, British title, European title, World title - you need to put everything in to it. If you do and you have the right team around you then you’ve got a chance.”
A natural progression transported the recently relieved WBA Super World featherweight supremo from the amateur springboard provided by Midland White City in Belfast, and the transitional bridge constructed by Gerry Storey’s expertise, to the tutelage of Maree in the beautifully secluded pocket of the Ribble Valley.
The Belfast-born boxer, raised on the loyalist enclave of Tiger’s Bay, arrived with plenty of promise having built up an impressive CV in the more protected, development realms of the sport.
Frampton was bullying opponents about the canvas as a schoolboy and represented his nation by his early teens. He became a national flyweight champion, a national featherweight champion and, sandwiched in-between, there was the EU Amateur Championship in Dublin where he lost to France’s Khedafi Djelkhir in the final.
Frampton recalled: “I boxed for Midland White City in Belfast. I had about 180 amateur fights and won about 150.
“As an amateur I boxed internationally for Ireland, I was decent, I could’ve been better and at the time I was disappointed that I didn’t get selected for Olympic qualification for Beijing and that was one of the reasons why I turned professional.
“The boxing club was literally a two-minute walk from my house and it was more through curiosity than anything else. I wasn’t from a big boxing family, my dad didn’t try to push me into it.
“I was only seven and I asked my mum to bring me down to try this boxing game out. I went down and fell in love with it straight away. I didn’t really have anybody inspire me, I just fell in love with it myself.
“As an amateur I won a European Union silver medal, I was Irish senior champion in two weight divisions, I won a few multi-nations around the world. I was a highly ranked amateur, I was number one in the four nations at the time I turned professional. I did okay but I could’ve done better.”
Frampton, who unified the bantamweight division when beating Scott Quigg last year, before stepping up to featherweight to take the WBA’s strap off Leo Santa Cruz, added: “I was based in Belfast and I signed with Barry (McGuigan). I was training with a guy back home called Gerry Storey and I just thought that I needed a move away and get out of my home comforts.
“Barry had worked with Kevin (Maree) before and suggested coming out here. I trained a lot here, Kevin was in my corner for a number of fights and the Stirk House was the first ever place that I had training camps. It’s a good spot, I have good memories, I enjoyed it here with good people as well.
“Kenny Anderson was my main stable mate. Jeff Thomas was also involved as well. Kevin had a good relationship with Billy Nelson, we had a lot of Scottish guys up and down as well, Ricky Burns and John Simpson, so there was a lot of good sparring for me.
“It was great. I had a decent amateur background, but professional boxing is a completely different sport. I needed to learn a new game so I had a good education here.”