By: Oliver McManus
There’s been a lot of talk about returns and comebacks in a British ring over the past weeks and month but this weekend, in Belfast, there’s, arguably, the most exciting return of all; for the first time in eight years, Michael Conlan will fight in his home town of Belfast and headline at the SSE Arena in front of a raucous crowd of near 11,000.
Already 7 and 0 as a professional, having fought in various states across America as well as in Australia, Saturday marks Conlan’s first professional fight in the United Kingdom and he’ll be looking to make a significant statement up against Adeilson Dos Santos.
Dos Santos brings pedigree to the encounter having challenged for Jessie Magdaleno’s WBO Super Bantamweight crown and whilst the Brazilian has only recently moved up to the heavier weight class – this will be his third successive fight at featherweight – his experience is something that Conlan refused to look beyond.
Something of a “gatekeeper” across both divisions, Dos Santos will be viewing this as his opportunity to cause an upset of untold magnitude and instantly reinstate himself as in-and-around the world title scene.
Conlan, himself, says 2018 is all about setting up and preparing for a big 2019, the year in which he envisions becoming world champion, and will be looking to display all of his natural ability in the most pressurised environment of his life.
The Rio Olympian has gone on record as saying he would like opponents who come to fight as opposed to those who simply tuck up, and Adeilson is the type of man who will start fast and hard, looking to disrupt the rhythm of Conlan, in a bid to really rattle the nerves of the Irish sensation.
Let’s be clear, on paper, Conlan should be more than enough to overcome his latest opponent but, as we’ve seen all too often, paper means nothing and Dos Santos has a frequent habit of taking to the centre of the ring during the first couple of rounds and swinging some wild left hands from a, borderline, crouched posture.
Indeed from some of the footage of his fights back in Brazil – undeniably against lesser opposition – he really does favour a three-four punch combination of left hooks to the ribcage of his opponent.
Conlan, meanwhile, has been forced into changing his style in past fights in order to accommodate for trickier opponents, having to go forward and really press his case whereas the more natural style of his relies on having a livewire opponent that he can really trade and tee-off with.
Genuinely one of the best counter-punchers in the business there’s an expectation that this bout – scheduled for 10 rounds – will enable Conlan to showcase what made his name in the amateur ranks and, certainly, build on everything he’s learned so far as a professional.
Also on the card is a ferocious rivalry for between Jono Carroll and Declan Geraghty as the two meet for the first since a controversial four rounder between the pair way back in 2014; for context, Geraghty was six and 0 whilst Carroll was two and 0 when they faced off in November, four years ago, with the two boxers producing a barnstormer of a fighter, Geraghty leading on the scorecard, before Declan got disqualified for a repetitive use of the head in the fourth round.
Since then the heat has been brewing and the blood between them is genuinely bad, the talk from both camps in the build up to this fight has shown no signs of simmering down and, indeed, it looks as though fight night will be the boiling point and produce, yet another, sensational clash.
Geraghty believes he is the more naturally gifted boxer and that his class should outshine the “brawling” nature of Jono Carroll and since that loss Geraghty has shown an unrivalled development in terms of maturity, looking really patient and composed throughout his career in not pushing the stoppage.
Admittedly, as with every boxer, there is a weakness and you must suggest his chin is questionable having been dropped on three occasions, once against Eusebio Osejo and twice against James Tennyson, but even that has developed and Geraghty has looked particularly impressive over the course of his last 10 rounders – against John Quigley and Michael Roberts – and, let’s not forget, he has the experience to learn from his previous mistakes.
Jono Carroll, despite that tag as a brawler, has only notched up two stoppage victories from 15 wins without defeat and he takes to the ring with, yes, aggression but a continued, constant aggression that just wears down, fatigues, his opponent as opposed to bouncing them out of the ring.
The current IBF Inter-Continetnal Super-Featherweight champion, he too faced John Quigley – over 12 rounds – and claimed an edgy split decision against his fellow Irishman but looked a bit better than the scorecards suggested. If you were to isolate the Quigley fights then you’d suggest that Geraghty performed better but there’s no point in over-extrapolating one particular bout and Carroll has been consistently impressive over the course of his career.
A Prizefighter champion – that’s no mean feat – he beat Stephen Foster, Gary Buckland and Michael Devine on his way to lifting the trophy and that was only in his fourth, fifth and sixth fights.
These were experienced contenders and, albeit over only three rounds, Carroll’s high-tempo combined with a classy fighting style secured him the win and ensured development far beyond his age.
The winner of this bout will gain bragging rights for life but, more importantly, they’ll push themselves ever closer to the coveted world title shot and this could, easily, be fight of the night.
But you look down the card and there’s so much talent stacked across Tyrone McKenna taking on Jack Catterall over 10 rounds in the super lightweight division – two sleek and skilled stylish southpaws going at it, McKenna coming off the back of a convincing win against Anthony Upton and Catterall looking to further push himself up the world rankings.
Lewis Benson and Johnny Coyle will pit their unbeaten records against each other as they go head-to-head over the course of 10 rounds in a fight that looks like going the distance; Coyle is the established fighter despite being younger than Benson but ‘Kid Caramel’, as he’s known, has looked SO impressive every time he’s been in the ring so, yet again, this is another 50-50 fight that’s just TOO GOOD to miss.
Joe Ham vs Tyrone McCullagh, Gary Corcoran, Sunny Edwards, Gary Cully, Lewis Crocker, Taylor McGoldrick, Padraig McCrory… even some 21 year old Cuban called Neslan Machado, this is, without doubt, the CARD OF THE YEAR from any British promoter.
Bring it on.