Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Michael Conlan hopes to cap off 2018 with a win in Manchester

Featherweight Michael Conlan (right) vs. Nicola Cipolletta. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Michael Conlan is content with how fast his professional career is moving. With five bouts in 2017, Conlan will squeeze in a fifth fight this year by making his first appearance in England as a pro by facing Jason Cunningham in support of fellow countryman Carl Frampton versus Josh Warrington in Manchester.

“I’m finishing the year on a big high,” Conlan said. “I’m feeling great and excited to face a tough and durable fighter.”

Although Conlan (9-0, 6 knockouts) moved his training camp to the U.K. earlier this year, he hasn’t fought in England since capturing the bronze medal at the London Olympic Games in 2012. Now being just an hour’s flight away from his native Belfast in Northern, Ireland, Conlan has wrapped himself with a sense of security, knowing his family and supporters are nearby.


“There is a bond you make with the guys you choose to spend your camp with,” Conlan explains. “The circle of guys we have in camp now suits me better. Training in Los Angeles was great too. The levels of sparring were great for me, at the time, but I wanted to be near home.”

After training under Manny Robles to start his pro career, the 27-year-old Conlan decided to make the move to trainer Adam Booth. The two have worked on honing additional technical skills to help Conlan as the level of competition grows.

“I am learning to not having to rely on one big punch to win,” Conlan points out. “I want my opponents to miss so I can make them pay and save some of my own brain cells and keep them intact. I can learn to be more defensive.”

Conlan still likes an old-fashioned exchange and in Cunningham (24-5, 6 KOs), he expects to have his opponent meet him in the center of the ring instead of having to chase him around like he did in October against Nicola Cipolletta in Las Vegas.

Featherweight Michael Conlan (right) vs. Nicola Cipolletta. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Featherweight Michael Conlan (right) vs. Nicola Cipolletta. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“That was very frustrating,” Conlan recalls.“ I was concerned that would happen with that opponent. I could tell he wasn’t interested in fighting me. I told Top Rank to find me an opponent who wants to be the one to defeat me. I believe Cunningham is going to come to win. It’s not in his repertoire to run and try to escape.”

Another benefit to training closer to home for Conlan is having the necessary people around who can help keep him grounded, as the fame of being a boxing star continues to grow. Conlan credits his family, including his father as a key figure who can help Conlan keep his focus squarely on boxing instead of the outside lures fame can bring.

“My father and Adam can quickly bring me back to reality,” Conlan points out. “I am a good fighter but I want to be the best in the world. There is a lot pressure that comes with the media attention but if I get big-headed, my father will slap my head and I’m back to reality immediately. It’s not about achieving celebrity status. It’s about boxing. At the end of the day, I need to go in the ring and beat somebody up.”

Conlan’s popularity hit a fever pitch at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when it looked as if he were destined to repeat as a medal winner, only to lose a controversial unanimous decision to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin. Conlan then made headlines around the world when he raised a middle finger in the direction of the judges and went off on a profanity-fueled tirade when interviewed immediately after the decision. Photos and videos of a heartbroken Conlan went viral. At the same time, they brought him instantaneous fame.

Featherweight Michael Conlan. Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Featherweight Michael Conlan. Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“It happened and it’s over with. It’s not something I need to dwell on,” Conlan said. “It’s also the best thing that happened to my boxing career. It has catapulted me to places and recognition that world champions don’t have.”

Conlan hopes he will be eligible next year to fight in a world title eliminator but the real way to get the stench of the Olympic loss out of his system is to avenge his loss to Nikitin in the pros.

“We are trying to get that fight soon,” Conlan says excitedly. “I want that fight in Ireland, so I can right that wrong once and for all and 100% the judges won’t be needed this time. I am going to knock him out.”




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