Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Michael Conlan lays out plan to rule St. Patrick’s Day

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — “They’re going to see an exciting, new Michael Conlan. A lot of heart, a lot of speed, and a lot of entertainment. That’s what it’s all about. This is the entertainment business as well as the hurt business. You can’t just go in there and be a fighter, you have to be an entertainer too.”

Introduction to the fighting psyche of Michael Conlan. Once a heralded Irish amateur and 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner in the London Games, Conlan will take his talents to the professional ranks on March 17, and before heading to New York City this weekend for his pro debut, “Mick” held a media workout at the Wild Card West Gym. It was there he spoke with, and more light was shed on a pro career that all started with a middle finger.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“It was Top Rank’s idea,” said Conlan about the infamous middle fingers he and Bob Arum unleashed on the world when announcing the signing of their promotional contract last September. “They obviously know what happened in the Olympics and everybody knows what happened, so they kind of seen it as a good tool. It went well in the Olympics, and it went well when me and Bob done it together. It was just as simple as that. I think It was a good marketing campaign. We used it and benefitted from it too.”

Conlan gave the same gesture to judges at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and commemorating the occasion, he wore a Fight Label UK shirt that had a silhouette of the moment imprinted on the back.

“You know, I would’ve been (surprised), but the fact that they actually really wanted to sign me made me know that they like that stuff,” said Conlan on whether he was surprised they were up for relishing the moment. “I was expecting to be throwing some fingers somewhere when I went into the office.”

Conlan, 25, moved his entire life to Marina Del Rey, California, in order to focus on his boxing career.

“No, I’m living in L.A. man,” responded Conlan when asked if there were any tough adjustments living here. “Where I am, in Ireland, it’s just cold all the time. This is better than my summer back home. It’s been quite easy to adjust. Sometimes you do feel lonely when your family isn’t around, but I still have my fiancee and my daughter here, so it’s been an easy enough adjustment for me.”

The ultimate reason why Conlan traveled 5,000-plus miles from his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was to be coached by Manny Robles — a Mexican-American trainer who grooms proteges at a place called “The Rock” in Carson, California. It was learned that Robles was referred to Conlan by his manager, Matthew Macklin — a former middleweight contender. Macklin, 34, who retired last year, has quickly garnered success in his post-fighting career, having now over 100 fighters in his stable. He was also at the media workout, and shed light on playing matchmaker between fighter and trainer.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“I liked the set-up,” said Macklin, who had done some trainging of his own at Robles’ gym. “I liked Manny, he was committed, he was on time, organized, had great sparring there in and around Mick’s weight. I thought about the Wild Card for Mick, but I just thought maybe it’s had its day. The Kronk had its day, Gleason’s had its day. Things come and go, you know. I thought The Rock is having its day, and has good days to come.”

Back in November, Macklin took Conlan on a 10-day trip to Southern California not only to see how Michael liked training with Robles, but also to seek a place where he and his fiancee would feel comfortable living. This way, as Macklin put it, Conlan can hit the ground running once making the move permanent.

“They clicked straight away,” said Macklin on the fighter-trainer relationship. “I had six or seven trainers throughout my career, and I don’t think one’s better than the other; I think it’s a marriage. I think it’s finding a trainer that suits you. Maybe he can suit your style or even your personality. It was good that him and Manny seemed to click straight away.”

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“When I got that call, it came out of nowhere,” Robles told about getting the news he’d be Conlan’s trainer. “It must’ve been on the weekend and I was just hanging out at home being a couch potato watching ESPN, and all of the sudden I get the call. I’m humbled. I’m extremely blessed and extremely thankful for not only of course having the opportunity to work with Michael, but all the other kids I work with. I appreciate Matthew for him as a manager for giving me the confidence and believing in me to work with such a fine kid.

“He’s improved in every single aspect in boxing,” said Robles about Conlan’s progression. “But I believe the biggest improvement has been getting him to settle down, sit, and really make his punches count. Not just stick-and-move like you normally do in the amateurs, but really sit there and dig in.”

Along with many other young prospects, Robles also trains WBO featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez and WBO junior featherweight titlist Jessie Magdaleno. Conlan, who is making his pro debut at junior featherweight, has experienced brains to pick at.

“Yeah. The two main charachters in the gym are Oscar and Jessie — both WBO world champions and both in and around my division — so it was a no-brainer for me to go to that gym and get that work,” said Conlan.

It isn’t often fighters get the red-carpet treatment before ever taking a step in the ring professionally. Conlan had a big NYC press conference last October announcing his debut fight, and with all the glitz and glamour comes more pressure than usual, but that’s something Conlan wanted all along.

“That’s the stuff I love,” proclaimed Conlan. “Throughout boxing, with me, I’ve always said like to my brothers and my family and stuff, this is what I want, this is what I’m gonna to do. My bigger brother Jamie, who’s a professional as well, he was saying, you can’t really get this kind of stuff when making your debut — you can’t really expect that. But what I’ve said has come to fruition, and I’m glad I’ve done this. I’ve visualized it all my career, all my life, and it’s happening now.”

The Madison Square Garden Theater will be the setting for Conlan’s first fight, and Tim Ibarra, 4-4 (1 knockout), will be public enemy number one once he steps in the ring. Deliberately set on St. Patrick’s Day, Conlan expects well over 2,000 Irish to make the trek across the Atlantic for the occasion. They will certainly dominate the 5,500-capacity venue.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“New York will be the capitol of Ireland on March 17th,” Conlan brilliantly put it. “Irish fans travel exceptionally well, and I’m completely honored and grateful that they’re going to follow me like this. It’s gonna be an extra help — an extra man in that ring. It’s something I’m really looking forward to. I want to hold St.Patrick’s Day in the Garden every single year. That’s what I want. I want that to be my day. This is the start of it and it will continue. Maybe two or three years time, we will be fighting in the big Garden.”

As if the atmosphere didn’t need to elevated even higher, Conlan will have UFC superstar and fellow Irishman Conor McGregor escort him to the ring.

“We done an event in Belfast; he was talking on stage and I was invited to go as well,” recalled Conlan about an encounter back in November. Conlan sort of put McGregor on the spot, but McGregor made a handshake agreement without hesitation. “I had people re-record a song for me and stuff, so it’s gonna be iconic,” said Conlan about his intro. “Maybe not as iconic for people around the world, but definitely for Irish people it’ll be iconic.”

Conlan’s debut also precedes an HBO pay-per-view event at the Madison Square Garden big room, where Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will look to defend his WBA, WBC, and IBF middleweight titles against Daniel Jacobs on March 18. Golovkin happens to be Conlan’s favorite fighter, and he hopes to meet him for the first time. Both events will have boxing fans buzzing on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, but it will be Conlan making the commencement.

“We’ll get them excitement in the ring, and then we’ll get them the after party.”

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