By: Oliver McManus
Michael Conlan is seldom a man who needs introducing, a living legend in his home city of Belfast quickly building his legacy stateside but for the prodigious professional his fight on the 30th June will mark his first fight back home since 2010, when he was at the start of his star-studded amateur career.
Bronze at London 2012, Gold at the World, European and Commonwealth Championships saw him enter the Rio games as one of the most successful amateur fighters ever to herald from Ireland and favourite for the title. A well-documented, and controversial, Vladimir Nikitin resulted in Conlan walking away from the amateur sport.
Photo Credit: Michael Conlan Twitter Account
His fire and hunger for success was galvanized and transitioned into the paid ranks where, promoted by Bob Arum and Top Rank, the Conlan world tour has only just begun; New York, Chicago, Brisbane, Arizona, Belfast, already ticked off the list.
Seven fights, seven opponents conquered, sharing the bill with Lomachenko, Linares and Pacquaio serves as a taste for the big fight atmosphere that Michael admits he is still to get used to – his fourth headlining show on June 30th, in front of that fabled Irish crowd, should see him settle into the spotlight.
Ireland awaits, the world awaits.
We’re just over a month away from your first professional fight in the UK, in Belfast no less, how are you feeling?
I’m really looking forward to it, you know, it’s a huge thing for me, a huge achievement in my career. For me to come home and fight in Belfast is something special, it’s something I’ve dreamed of all my life as a fighter, as a boxer. Especially as a professional I think it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, to fight in the Odyssey – sorry, SSE now – and it’s the first time I’ll be boxing at home since 2010 and I’m main eventing in the SSE Arena.
It’s really special and I’m really looking forward to it.
Are there any extra nerves because it is your first fight home in so long or is it just a case of getting the job done?
No I don’t think so, I honestly don’t, I feel the fact that I’ve headlined MSG twice now and then I’ve competed on such big cards, you know, Lomachenko-Linares, Pacquiao and I’ve had major billing on those cards. I think the atmosphere that’ll be generated in the Garden on St Patrick’s Day had prepared me for what to expect.
Maybe not so much as it’s only 5,000 at the theatre but it’s the same compact, crazy atmosphere we’re expecting in Belfast. That’s definitely stood me in good stead.
It will be your fourth headlining fight from eight bouts, have you got used to that yet?
No I still get excited, I don’t think anyone ever gets used to it unless you’re like a twenty world title veteran fight, then you can get used to it, but I feel that, for me, it’s still very fresh. Especially now it’s in Belfast, it’s even more exciting for me but I definitely find that I am getting comfortable with the situation more now and I think that’s the main thing, being comfortable in those situations and being able to put in performances and not letting the nerves affect your performance.
You’re fighting a former world title challenger, what sort of a fight are you expecting?
He’s kind of more a gate-keeper type fighter now, I’d say, and I expect him to come trying to win, he’s got good power and he’s dangerous but he’s been beaten in the past and he knows what the feels like. I think he’ll be expecting to feel it again but he’ll put it on me and try and take it away from me because he may see this as his platform to get back into the mix and I’m not saying he’s a warrior but I am expecting a tough test from him because after all this is my eight fight and it is a good step up from my recent opposition.
So I am expecting a tough fight and an early on acid test to see where I’m at now and that’s what it is because there’s an awful lot riding on this – it is a test, it’s in Belfast and if it all goes wrong, it all goes wrong. I am prepared, I’m not underestimating anybody and I know he’s a tough guy who comes in and fights to win. He’s got power so I am very aware of that.
And I ask that because some of your opponents have been quite negative in their style, does it frustrate you when you can’t showcase your ability because of the way they’ve came to fight?
Oliver, you know, this is something that really annoys me but at the end of the day I can’t complain because I’ve watched these guys pre-fight and I’m going “okay this guy is going to give me a test” and against other opposition he’s going forward, he’s trying to win the fight and they’re doing a job, winning fights and they actually look like they’re game and ready to go but then when these guys have stepped in the ring they’ve kind of shied away, they’ve got too nervous, the atmosphere has maybe tripped them up and I think that’s what has happened so far.
The last guy (Ibon Larrinaga) was a former WBC Mediterranean Champion and I watched his previous clips and he always came to win and then you’ve got that David Berna guy, 14 wins 13 knockouts something like that with two losses and he’s the only that came to win. He tried a little bit, I caught him with a body shot and that was it but everybody else they just seem to be taken away by the occasion.
At the same time I can’t complain because not everybody is going to be like that, a lot of people will be tougher and harder.
In terms of your development I’m assuming you’d rather have people who come and try and beat you as opposed to people who just tuck up and let you work around them?
Yeah, yeah, definitely, I like to describe myself as a trading puncher but a boxed fighter, almost, I can do the go forward stuff but it’s not my strongest point so I like to be in the pocket but at the same time counter punching so that would be how I like it – if someone was trying to connect then I’d make them pay and even then you can tee off and it’s always a very eventful style, I feel.
And what I have been doing is going Mexican-style sometimes on people and that’s not my kind of fight.
I want to talk about the undercard for June 30th – all 50-50 fights – what does it mean to you when you look at the card and it’s so solid?
It’s brilliant, I’m really happy about it and it was one of the main things we spoke about when we talked about having me come back because I don’t want to be part of shows, even if I am the main event, where it’s just about me. I want everybody to play their part and to have a solid card, I don’t want it to just be a great main event, I want it to be a great night in general and the whole card is really solid, I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Is there any particular fight that stands out, for you?
They all do! It is very tough to pick and I honestly can’t really pick between them because I’m really interested to see how Sutcliffe-McKenna goes, I WANT to see Jono Carroll vs Declan Geraghty again because there is so much bad blood between them it’s unbelievable.
Then even Tyrone McCullagh vs Joe Ham, that’s two undefeated prospects who are probably a bit further on in their career in terms of development and they’ve had more fight, they’re facing each other and someone’s 0 will go so that’s another fight I’d like to watch.
You are signed up with Bob Arum and Top Rank but we’ve seen Frank Warren and Top Rank sign an agreement for “enhanced partnership”, does that realistically mean we can see you in Ireland and the UK more often or is you career still mainly in America?
I think most of my career will still be in America but hopefully there’ll be some more, I always said I was going to box in Ireland at least once a year and that was what I wanted to negotiate before I became professional and signed with Top Rank and we got that sorted, I’m really happy with that and hopefully with Frank Warren and Top Rank coming to an agreement we can have me fight at home more or even elsewhere in the UK or Ireland – it’s definitely something that I would love to do and be interested in doing because I know Top Rank don’t just want me to be America based or just Ireland based, they want me worldwide and it shows already in where they’ve put me.
They’ve put me in Arizona, New York, Australia, Ireland now and it’s growing and growing and growing and hopefully we can keep it going like this.
How quickly are we looking at getting you to that world level, that world title shot?
I’m thinking towards the end of next year, the end of 2019 and that’s what I kind of said when I turned professional that 2019 would be the year that I’m going to be world champion or there or thereabouts so I think this year is definitely an important year with the level of opposition that I face and next year is the crucial year, I will do a lot next year and it just depends on how I develop through the next year but if everything goes to plan, I believe I will be world champion next year.
You’re still only 26, you’re still young, are we going to see you move up or down the weights as you get older and see a multi-weight champion or are you fully committed to feather?
At the minute I’m committed to featherweight but yes, I will be a multi-weight world champion, that’s always been my aim even before I turned professional – I’m not going to move down any weights because I tried super-bantamweight but I quickly gave that up. You know I’m a big featherweight and I get in the ring at 142(lbs), 143 so I’m really happy with that because I believe I am big enough to move up to super-featherweight and even lightweight.
For you what has been your best professional performance to date?
Best professional performance? When I think about learning and what I’ve done as a whole maybe the last one because the guy gave me rounds and I was able to work off him and do things that I’d practised. Maybe I didn’t look my best but it was the little things that I developed when I was in the ring and it was probably MY best performance so far based on learning that night and I probably learnt more than I did in the rest of them.
On performances maybe St Patrick’s Day this year (Berna) when I took the guy out with the body shot, just the way it happened it was nice, a left uppercut to the body and then that was it.
Absolutely mate, can I get a prediction for your next fight, sort of result and performance?
Just another win and I’m going to say a lot stoppage maybe, I think so, a late stoppage, definitely. Another victory in what is an entertaining fight while it lasts.
Thank you so much for speaking to us, been a pleasure.
Cheers Oliver, appreciate it.