Michael Conlan relishing Belfast homecoming against Adeilson Dos Santos
Super-popular featherweight Michael Conlan will make his much anticipated homecoming against former world title challenger Adeilson Dos Santos at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Saturday, in front of roughly 6,000 fans.
This will be the first time since 2010 that Conlan has fought in his home city and it’s something the 26-year-old boxer-puncher has wanted to do since he turned professional in March 2017.
“I’m really proud to be coming home to Belfast and boxing in front of my home crowd, it’s a huge honor for me,” Conlan told THE RING. “It’s great to be coming back to my home city, especially being main event, it’s a special feeling.”
Conlan (7-0, 5 knockouts) knows Dos Santos (19-4, 15 KOs) well, having sparred countless rounds with former gym mate Jessie Magdaleno to prepare the then-WBO junior featherweight titleholder for the Brazilian puncher last April.
“(Dos Santos) is coming to win,” acknowledged Conlan. “He’s fought for a world title, he’s been in with world level opposition; the likes of Kid Galahad (lost UD12). He can punch and has a good record.
“He’s obviously going to come over and try to upset the apple cart and try to knock me out. I’m expecting him to come in throwing those big wild hooks, but I feel I’m too schooled and smart for that.”
Dos Santos shouldn’t present anything the former amateur star hasn’t seen before. Conlan claimed Commonwealth, European and World Championship gold, before controversially losing in the quarter-finals stages of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
With an impressive amateur record of 248 wins against 14 losses under his belt, Conlan felt the time was right to make the transition to the professional game and he’s more than satisfied with how the first 15 months have gone.
“I think it’s went really well for me,” he said. “I’m moving along at the right pace for my progression. I’ve got great exposure. Top Rank have done a fantastic job.
“I’ve headlined in New York twice, headlined in Chicago, was co-main event in Sydney for [Manny] Pacquiao [vs. Jeff Horn] in Australia; which was amazing, also a double main event in Arizona with Oscar Valdez and (Gilberto) Ramirez, and I boxed on the [Vasyl] Lomachenko undercard. It’s been a great ride so far.”
After initially relocating to Los Angeles to work with Manny Robles, Conlan elected to move closer to home because his fiancee is due to give birth to their second child on July 10.
That decision led to Conlan hooking up with acclaimed British coach Adam Booth earlier this year and so far things have gone extremely well.
“It’s a different look, they’re both great gyms,” Conlan said. “I was getting invaluable experience with Jessie and Oscar [Valdez] and other guys in the gym, but I’ve come to London and I’m training with Adam and great people like [welterweight prospect] Josh [Kelly] and [WBA bantamweight titleholder] Ryan [Burnett].
“It’s just a change in scenery, there hasn’t really been a difference in quality. I feel the year I got out in L.A. is going to be a very important factor in my whole career, it’s taught me an awful lot. It’s opened my eyes to how pro boxing is out there and the level of talent there is and how tough it is.
“I feel that’s a little bonus for me. A lot of people don’t get to train out in L.A. and get that kind of sparring, I’ve had a full year of it and I feel that’s benefited me big time.”
This will be Conlan’s third eight-round fight this year. He’s obviously happy with his progression and feels he’s not too far from mixing with the best at 126 pounds.
“I’d say around a year, year-and-a-half, that’s my aim,” he said. “Mid-to-late 2019. I feel I’m close enough. I could have done a 10-rounder this time, but we’re just going to keep on building, keep on getting the experience, then we’ll make the right moves at the right time.”
While Conlan is accustomed to the big treatment (he was walked to the ring by Conor McGregor ahead of his pro debut on St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden last year), he’s expecting a low-key entrance on Saturday.
“No, I have no one planned [Laughs],” Conlan confirmed. “This is the homecoming; this is me, myself and Mick. I don’t need any gimmicks, this is a straight in job, show everybody I’m back.”
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