BELFAST BANTAMWEIGHT SENSATION Ryan Burnett was once ranked number one in the world for his age and weight as an amateur and he believes it's simply a matter of time before he replicates that achievement in the paid sphere.
The 22-year-old, Adam Booth-trained prospect has already racked up six straight wins (five by stoppage) since debuting in May 2013. He returns to battle on Frank Warren's mammoth production at London's O2 Arena on February 28.
Last week, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up the Monaco-based prospect to find out more about his background and ambitions.
I'm the middle of three brothers. Neither of the other two have boxed. In fact, there are no other boxers in my family, to my knowledge.
I'll be based in London in the run up to my next fight at the O2 on February 28, but I'm presently training over in Monaco where my coach Adam Booth is based.
At what age did you become interested in boxing and why?
There's a photo of me wearing boxing gloves and a head guard when I was just four years old. Dad was a bit of a street fighter in his day and I was always messing about with him. He formally got me into the boxing gym aged nine.
Though I've always been the smallest in the crowd, I've always liked a fight. I used to be a little shit, scrapping at school and on the street. As soon as I began the boxing, fighting kids my own size, I knew I was going to be pretty good.
What do you recall of your amateur career?
I started out at The Kronk gym in Belfast, under coach Tony Dunlop, and had my first amateur contest aged 11. At the age of 15, I moved to the Holy Family gym where I was coached by Gerry Storey.
I only lost four of 98 amateur bouts and I dispute most of those losses. I won seven All Ireland titles and four Ulster titles at various junior levels.
From the age of about 15 I represented Ireland and I must have had about 40 international vests. I have fought in places like Romania, Azerbaijan, USA and all over England and Scotland.
I bagged a few medals at multi-nation meets but the highlight of my time in the amateurs would have been winning the gold medal at the Youth Olympics in Singapore when I was 18.
I boxed three times; beating opponents from Belarus, Kazakhstan and then the reigning world (youth) champion from Azerbaijan (Saman Alizada). That was definitely the high point of my time in the amateurs. It placed me as number one in the world for my age and weight category.
Three months earlier, I got to the final of the World Youth championships, where I lost in the final to the same Azerbaijani as in Azerbaijan. I had to fight six times in six days which was very taxing; physically and mentally.
Shortly after, I picked up a back injury which kept me out for about a year, so I never really accomplished much as a senior. In my last amateur bout I lost to (Olympic bronze, European silver and Commonwealth gold medallist) Michael Conlon by just a point in the Irish seniors.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did?
During my time out, I started to think about the pro game and
how my style might be better suited to it. It is proper fighting. I
loved the thought of cracking people with the little leather
You nearly never made it into the pros!
That's right. When I went for my scan with The Boxing Board they identified an aneurism. The docs told me it was too dangerous for me to box and I'd never fight again. We contested it and it took a year and a half to sort but eventually I was licensed.
Tell us about your back up team.
I had my first four pro fights with Hatton Promotions, trained by Ricky (Hatton). He was a great coach who taught me a lot; really helped me adapt to the pro game. We'd often spar and he really used to 'put it in' and clump me if I made a mistake. He was so knowledgeable.
Today I fight on Frank Warren's shows and for the last six months I've been trained and managed by Adam Booth. I was looking for a new coach after the split with Ricky and Adam's personality caught my eye so I approached him. I call him 'The Bible'. He's so clued up technically, he really knows the game.
A guy called John Hill looks after my nutrition and conditioning.
Describe your style. What are your best qualities?
I'm comfortable either fighting or boxing on the back foot. I probably prefer the fighting. I've stopped five of my six pro opponents and always used to hurt my amateur rivals. That said, people tend to complement me on my speed rather than my power.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter?
Generally understand all areas of the pro game better. I especially need to master hitting but not getting hit back. I still tend to keep my head still.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes?
The pros are far harder. The training's a lot more intense and you have to be much tougher. Even the sparring is harder than most amateur fights.
Who is the best opponent that you've shared a ring with?
In an actual fight, that'd be a Cuban (Yosvany Soto Veita) that I beat in semis at the 2010 World Youth Championships.
However, when I was about 18 I did some sparring with (IBF Super-Bantam king) Carl Frampton. I looked up to him so much. He's good in every department but I was doing okay against him.
All-time favourite fighter
Growing up it was Roy Jones Junior. He had the ability to try things others couldn't get away with. He always fascinated me. Lately, I'm really into Carl Frampton. I love his style and it's been a privilege to have boxed on a few of his undercards.
All-time favourite fight
Ward v Gatti I. Absolute war!
Which current match would you most like to see made?
It'd still have to be Mayweather against Pacquiao and I fancy The Pacman'. Mayweather has not had to face the kind of speed he'll bring for quite a while.
I can't remember. I don't choose it. Whatever they put on.
What are your ambitions as a boxer?
Us smaller guys tend to move through quicker so my goal this year is to get a belt around my waist before targeting the British title in early 2016.
How do you relax?
Talking to my girlfriend. Some may see that as dull but it works for me. She's a professional dancer in Michael Flatley's 'Lord of the Dance' so she travels around a lot and I don't get to spend as much time with her as I'd like.
I might watch the odd movie but other than that I just train and watch fights on YouTube or boxing interviews on the [web]sites.
I've never been drawn to football.
A bit of Frank Sinatra. I also like The Script.
I like action movies. My favourite was probably The Green Mile with Tom Hanks. On TV, it's just boxing, boxing, boxing. That's all my life is!
Aspiration in life
Just to have a nice house and a nice family.
It doesn't matter how hard it gets, I'm going to make it!