IRISH BOXING IS FLYING HIGH AGAIN and Dublin lightweight Stephen Ormond intends to hijack the party.
The man they call 'The Rock' meets unbeaten British champion Terry Flanagan in a WBO eliminator in Wolverhampton on Saturday. Ormond's WBO European title is on the line and he knows that victory will secure a world title shot before the year is through.
"People at home are really starting to get excited about boxing again," says the 31-year-old who is presently ranked fifth by the sanctioning body.
"The Celtic Warriors gym of my trainer Packie Collins is starting to attract talent from all over and obviously (Carl) Frampton and Andy Lee's world title wins have given the nation a great boost.
"The Irish have a good tradition for supporting their fighters and I'd love to showcase that in Dublin. The people tell me they want to come out to support me. After I deal with Flanagan, hopefully it can happen. It's a great opportunity for me. After that, the sky's the limit."
Since debuting in Killarney back in October 2008, the quiet family man with the Duracell work rate has been restricted to just 18 pro gigs. Nevertheless, as he explains, he certainly isn't short of fighting experience.
"Boxing's been part of my life since I was about four years of age. My father Patrick was an All Ireland amateur lightweight champion and my grandfather and several uncles on both sides of the family were boxers, so I grew up listening to all the stories.
"My uncle Greg was a boxing coach, so I first went to the boxing gym at the age of six or seven and had my first amateur bout around the age of 11.
"I grew up sparring (future WBA Super-Bantamweight champion) Bernard Dunne, who was also from Clondalkin. I was coached for a while by his father Brendan, a 1976 Montreal Olympian.
"'Barney' (Bernard) was the main man at the club and, though he was four years older than me, we had some terrific spars. I learned loads off him but we stopped the spars in my late teens when he left to pursue his pro career over in America."
Ormond's own amateur career, in the singlets of the St Matthews and St Micks, plus 30 appearances in the emerald green national vest, brought five All Ireland titles, including three at senior level, plus a string of honours in multi-nation meets.
"I must have had close to 250 amateur contests. Although I missed out on attending the really big tournaments such as the Olympics and world championships, I represented Ireland all over the world," he recalls.
"I once boxed now top super-middleweight Andre Dirrell. When I fought him in an Ireland versus USA dual international, we were both 18-year-old featherweights!
"There was a huge height difference (Dirrell is 6ft1in, Ormond just 5ft 6in) but though he's now quite elusive, when we fought it was a real toe-to-toe war. I caught up with him plenty but he beat me on a 2-1 majority."
After starting with a brace of fights in his birth land, Ormond relocated to the East Coast of the USA, where he had four gigs out of the Kronk Manhattan Gym, under the guide of ex-two weight WBA champion Joey Gamache.
Since resurfacing in Dublin in early 2010, Ormond has made just three starts in the Emerald Isle, with another five on the English mainland.
But it was during one of four Scottish showings that he was controversially relieved of his unbeaten status; dropping a contentious 10 round decision to Edinburgh's Paul Appleby in March 2012.
"I was frustrated at the time but, looking back, I'm actually glad about it," Ormond states.
"It was probably too early in my pro career to have been moved on. The defeat held me back but has allowed more time for me to learn and grow.
"It probably took me longer than most to adapt to the professional style. Initially, I just threw hundreds of punches. Now I'm far more settled and punching far harder. Perhaps the downside was that no other prospects wanted to risk themselves against me because I was so dangerous. But no regrets."
Having planed away a few rough edges, the Dubliner is unbeaten in six since the defeat. In his last three, he has scalped good men such as Adam Dingsdale, Derry Mathews (both pts10) and ex-European title challenger Karim El Ouazghari (rsc5), to soar up the WBO rankings.
Next Saturday Ormond finally gets a chance to scale the world championship stage in what promises to be a Valentine's Day massacre against Manchester's Flanagan.
"It looks like a cracking fight on paper,' he says.
"We both like to go forward so it should be exciting. I'm a big (Man) United fan and I hear he's Man City, so that brings a bit more spice to the table.
"I've a lovely missus but we've never been huge on Valentine's Day, so what better way to spend the night than in the boxing ring. I've always been a fighter not a lover!"