IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING but Dublin lightweight Stephen Ormond is finally beginning to accrue the respect and opportunities that his talent and application to the sport merit.
'The Rock', 31, has been punching for pay for well over six years now and has quietly acquired a number five ranking with the World Boxing Organisation.
And the Dubliner knows that victory over British champion Terry Flanagan in their WBO eliminator at Wolverhampton on Saturday will guarantee a crack at the title that champion Terence Crawford is rumoured to be vacating.
Ormond secured the opening in December 2013 by threshing his way to an unexpected but fully merited 10 round decision against ex-British and Commonwealth champion Derry Mathews at the Echo Arena in the Scouser's home city.
"Everybody else might have been surprised by the ease with which I beat Derry but myself and my team weren't. The fight went exactly the way we believed it would. I just had to be conscious not to get drawn into a fight," assessed 'The Rock', who is managed and coached by 'Packie' Collins at the flourishing Celtic Warrior's Gym in the Irish capital.
"Mathews has got a nice left hook and we had to be very cautious of that especially in the earlier rounds but I've got very good feet when I need to move. I've also got a very good, very fast jab for one who's relatively short at the weight. After taking his sting, I was able to assert myself over the second half."
Given that he is already well into his 32nd year, he is understandably frustrated that opportunities to capitalise on that outstanding performance didn't materialise sooner.
"I've had a lot of let downs," he says.
"But I constantly stayed active in the gym: training, learning, developing. I've been over to Boston in the US to get top sparring and I've done some quality work with some of our leading amateur lads like Joyce and Michael Conlon. I'm the type who treats every spar like a real fight. I know fighting is different to sparring but I don't think that the lay-off will be too damaging."
On the home front, the 9st 9lb division is thriving with talents such as Derry Mathews, Anthony Crolla, Kevin Mitchell, Ricky Burns, Tommy Coyle, Luke Campbell and Flanagan - all vying to be considered top dog. Mathews and Mitchell have already cemented world title challenges this year and Ormond intends joining them by scalping Flanagan.
"I think both Kevin and Derry have got great chances (against WBC boss Jorge Linares and WBA king Richar Abril respectively) and I genuinely wish them all the luck. Kevin looked brilliant again the other night," says Ormond.
"Both Mathews and Mitchell are well known in Ireland so if I can win the WBO crown this year, unifications could bring a lot of excitement, generate a lot of money for the fighters and that's what the boxing is all about."
With current WBO czar Terence Crawford likely to abdicate to seek big money fights in heavier categories, the winner of Ormond-Flanagan is primed to face Texan four-time world champion Juan 'Baby Bull' Diaz for the vacant crown before 2015 is through.
Ormond, who fought out of New York in the formative stages of his pro career, says, "I watched a lot of 'Baby Bull' when I was living in the US and he was having world title fights against the likes of (Juan Manuel) Marquez. He's a really exciting fighter who gives it everything. It's amazing to look ahead and think I might be world champion before the year is out, but I never look past anybody. I'm solely focussed on Terry Flanagan."
The gifted Mancunian southpaw has swept away all before him thus far and enters as favourite with odds of 7-4 on. Nevertheless, Ormond refuses to be fazed, having foiled the bookies before.
"I've seen a couple of clips of Flanagan but I'm not a great one for studying opponents. I leave all that to my trainer Paschal. I respect all boxers, all opponents and Terry seems a good lad. He's got to 26-0 and holds the British title so he must be doing plenty right," he assesses.
"I'm ready for everything he brings. Things can change in seconds in boxing. I think he's only been listed as favourite because he's been busier (more active). No problem. I'm used to being the underdog. You'll just have to tune in on the night to see why I feel I'm superior. Let's just say, he's never been hit by a 'Rock' before.
"I treat every preparation as if it is my last one. It's now or never for me."