Animosity is an invaluable ingredient of any fight – and there has been no shortage of it on the long, bumpy road that ends in Manchester on Saturday night, when Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg will trade blows finally.
Unusually, hostilities have been most intense in the background, between the managers, promoters and trainers, as the rival rulers of two chunks of the world super-bantamweight championship go about their preparation like a pair of bulls in a blizzard, eyes trained on the task.
Barry McGuigan, who had his share of out-of-ring experiences in an illustrious career, guides the career of his fellow Irishman Frampton and, away from the ding-dong clamour, speaks with calm detachment about negotiations that must have stretched even his teetotal commitment over the past four years or so.
Looking as trim as anyone about to turn 55 has a right to, he is not best pleased with some of the comments Quigg's trainer, Joe Gallagher, has been making about the experience and pedigree of McGuigan's son Shane, who has steered Frampton to this high point in his career from the earliest stages.
“It’s unhealthy to drag this fight down by swiping at each other and making stupid comments; saying you didn’t train this fella or that fella,” McGuigan Sr says.
“It’s all irrelevant. All the hot air means nothing. We’re now in fight mode. The good thing is Carl has handled situations like this before, when all the attention has been on him: big fights, big crowds, packing out arenas, being the main fighter. It won’t make any difference to us. It will be interesting to see how they are. For both Gallagher and him it’s a big occasion. Gallagher thinks he’s some sort of svengali, that’s able to put a spell on us. For God’s sake: it’s just a fight. It’s not complicated.”
Shane chips in: "It's exactly the same as Kiko Martínez. It's exactly the same as Chris Avalos [Frampton's high-profile world title fights]."
He can’t help adding: “I’ve been training Frampton longer than he’s been training Quigg. It’s more him than me. Carl’s not taking the bait, so they’re looking for me to take the bait. Do they think we’re that stupid, that I’m going to gee Carl up to go and knock him out? I’m 27, he’s just got The Ring magazine trainer of the year. For him to be calling me out, it shows that he might be a little bit threatened.
“No, I don’t admire him at all. I don’t think he’s in the right position to be talking like that. He just coaches him. It used to be the fighters who did the talking. When you’ve got a fighter like Quigg, who is not the best talker, that deficit has to be made up somewhere else. He lets Eddie and Joe do all the talking for him.”
It is unlikely Gallagher will be upset by any of this. It is in his makeup to be confrontational; even some of his fighters say so; Eddie Hearn calls him "a pain in the arse". The row may not have driven many ticket sales or pay-per-view sign-ups on Sky Sports Box Office and it will be forgotten soon enough – but it fits the bill. You cannot have a fight without some verbal.
Shane McGuigan says he could not be happier with his fighter’s preparation, despite a minor scare when Frampton went to his bed for a day to recover from “a minor sniffle” last week. “It’s been 103 days since the fight was announced and we’ve done more than 200 rounds of sparring; he is looking amazing.” Nevertheless, if the IBF champion is at all weakened on the night, Quigg, who holds a WBA version of the title, is the wrong opponent to be holding at bay for 12 rounds.
Quigg’s promoter, Hearn – who promoted Frampton until a difference of opinion with McGuigan Sr – thinks his man wins inside six rounds, which is some statement.
The symbiosis between father and son in the Frampton camp – Barry’s other son, Jake, is also part of the team, attending to a lot of the business detail – is altogether natural, with hints of concerned paternalism.
McGuigan Sr says: “I don’t want it to sound like nepotism but he’s a very good coach. He’s got it. He’s got the ability to learn and understand, to pick things up. I didn’t have it and I could train people but he has.”
Junior interrupts: “He could fight a lot better than me, so … ” before Senior continues: “I definitely could fight better than him! He’s got a lot to learn but he’s improving all the time. He’s different to me, emotionally. He’s much calmer than me.”
Junior concurs: “We chuck him out of the dressing room before a fight. It used to be dad [IN CHARGE]but as the years went on, the way he trained him didn’t quite work [they both admit, laughing, that the volume and anxiety levels were higher then].”
A final fatherly word: "Let's be honest, I trained him the way I was trained, so I drove him very hard. You have to have the capacity to understand. Shane is working with David Haye, George Groves and they're all different. Intellectually, emotionally, physically – all of that is different; how you motivate them in the gym. Some guys you can tell them do three more rounds, others take persuading."
The addition of a former world heavyweight champion and a three-times world title challenger has added lustre to the Shane McGuigan reputation – a fact not lost on Gallagher, who reckons he has done little to bring through fighters from early days – but McGuigan is not bothered about reviving that argument.
He says of the dynamic between the three of them: “It’s really great. I think this camp, especially when the watch him spar, he just ups it. You can see it. Carl wants to impress them and they want to impress him when they are sparring. It’s good for them to bounce off each other like that.”
They are not so inured to either criticism or praise, then, these fighters. They are a sensitive lot – and the barbs that fly pre-fight sometimes do hit their target. On the night, Frampton and Quigg will be doing their best to wipe everything from their minds but the job in hand – which will be the toughest assignment of their careers.
Frampton v Quigg is live on Sky Sports Box Office on 27 February