As an amateur, middleweight Conrad Cummings was mixing it regularly with two of the great Irish elite boxers, Olympian Darren O'Neill and World silver medallist Jason Quigley.
The Coalisland man was performing well in the World Series of Boxing and targeting qualification for Rio when he received an offer to turn professional with Barry McGuigan's expanding Cyclone Promotions.
Convinced that coach Shane McGuigan had what it took to bring him to world title level, Cummings signed up.
McGuigan's strength and conditioning regime soon had Cummings looking sharper. He won his pro debut at the York Hall in February last year and is now seven unbeaten, winning three by stoppage.
Earlier this year, Conrad was already expressing a desire to get in the hunt for titles. "I'm a come-forward fighter who likes to put pressure on and hurt you," he insisted. "I'm pushing to move up."
Fighting in El Paso in July, Cummings stopped Texan Oscar Riojas in the second round.
Now Cummings has a shot at his first title.
In the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Friday he'll headlines a great card when he faces Alfred Meli (11-0, 3 KOs) for the vacant BBBofC Celtic middleweight title on the All On The Line show.
Impressed by what he's been seeing in the gym, Barry McGuigan reckons Cummings can progress.
"He's a dedicated fighter," says the Cyclone.
"He has that intensity and is relentless in the ring.
"I'm buzzing," says Cummings. "But I respect my opponent and what he's achieved. I'm not taking this lightly. I'll be ready."
Paul Hyland Jr, Marco McCullough and Fergal McCrory are also on the card.