From the first moment that boxing coach Kevin Maree put on the pads and stepped in to the ring with Carl Frampton he knew that he had a world champion on his hands.
Maree was entrusted with cushioning the Jackal’s transition to a professional pugilist around a decade ago when former WBA and lineal featherweight champion Barry McGuigan MBE introduced him to the set up at the Stirk House.
The Northern Ireland fighter was sold on his Gisburn-based surroundings, and the facilities within it, and with the support and guidance of his new team he started to climb the ladder.
Moving away from the comfort of head gear and shorter rounds, Frampton built a base under Maree in the paid ranks that paved the way for a shot at the vacant BBBofC Celtic super bantamweight title.
“We knew from the second that Barry McGuigan brought him down to the gym, and I took him on the pads, that we had a world champion on our hands,” he said. “He won everything as an amateur and from day one he was incredibly enjoyable to work with.
“Whenever you gave him something to work on it stuck with him straight away. I never had to do anything 10 times over. He was ready then and he was continuously blasting his opponents out. He was head and shoulders above everyone.”
Maree added: “He was technically brilliant and a beautiful boxer. He always looked safe, never vulnerable, so he was never in a position where you were worried about him. He was strong, powerful and we knew that he was special.
“We had him for a couple of years as an amateur and for his first six fights as a professional. He was training alongside Kenny Anderson at the time and they were very good together.”
Eventually, Frampton formed a partnership with McGuigan’s son, Shane, and transferred to south London where he now trains in a converted railway arch.
The one-time personal trainer had been assisted by head trainer Gerry Storey in the embryonic stages of their working relationship but he was promoted to Frampton’s sole voice on the eve of his biggest night against European champion Kiko Martinez four years ago.
Since then the pair have combined to great affect, unifying the IBF and WBA World super bantamweight titles against Scott Quigg before stepping up to take the WBA World super featherweight strap off Leo Santa Cruz in New York when landing a majority decision verdict.
Ahead of the rematch, staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday, Maree said: “I think he will win; rematches tend to go that way. I thought the first contest was one of the bouts of the year, if not the best.
“From a technical perspective it had all the excitement that we were expecting. They got down to business straight away and their styles gelled really well.
“Frampton won the first installment fair and square. Sometimes you get a rematch due to a controversial decision but on this occasion it’s simply because the first was such a fantastic fight.
“I think the outcome will be the same. It will probably go to points again but Frampton will maybe win by a wider margin this time.
“He’s had 12 rounds to work Santa Cruz out now. He’s experienced enough anyway but he’ll improve because his mind is so sharp. He’s like a robot.
“For me he was the fighter of the year for 2016. He’s not put a foot wrong and he’s fought quality opposition so I don’t think you can argue against that.”
Meanwhile, Maree Promotions is hosting an exclusive evening with Carl Frampton at the Stirk House, Gisburn, on Saturday, February 25th.
Tickets for the event, which are priced at £75, can be purchased via the website at www.http://mareepromotions.co.uk or by calling (01200) 445581.
The evening will include a three-course meal, an auction with an array of sporting memorabilia, a question and answer session and photograph opportunities.
“I think it will be great because he lived here for quite a long while,” said Maree. “It’s the first time he’s spoken at a dinner like this and it will be his first public appearance since the Santa Cruz fight.
“He’ll probably announce his next move as well. He’s had a great career so far and it will be a great story.”