Middleweight Connor Coyle on road to title shot: “I feel I’m one of the best”
Connor Coyle is on the cusp of becoming one of the elite fighters in the middleweight division. All he wants to do is show his worth on his path to a world title fight.
Coyle will face late-sub Cristian Rios Saturday night at the Hilton Carillon in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The 10-round bout will headline a Fire Fist Boxing Promotions card that will stream live on Reyesboxingtv.com ($4.99, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT).
The unbeaten Coyle was originally scheduled to face Fernando Farias, who withdrew from the fight for unspecified reasons. Rios took the fight late last week.
Coyle (18-0, 8 knockouts), who is originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, and now resides in Pinellas Park, Florida, last fought on December 11, winning by knockout after Sladan Janjanin did not answer the bell for Round 8. In his previous fight on September 17, Coyle defeated gatekeeper Silverio Ortiz by decision over eight one-sided rounds.
Rios has faced the likes of Esquiva Falcao, David Lemieux and Kyrone Davis among others in recent months. The 39-year-old Rios (23-17-3, 7 KOs), who resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has lost seven of his last eight bouts, all by decision.
The 32-year-old Coyle wants to remain as active as possible while a big fight is secured.
“Every fight is important,” Coyle told The Ring. “It is one step closer to where I want to be. I don’t take anyone lightly. I treat every fight as a world title bout. I’m envisioning the possibility a world title fight could come in the next fight or two. I’m going to perform the way I know I can perform on Saturday night.
“Once we go 19-0, we hope a big fight could come our way, but we have to get the job done. I would like to fight top opposition, but we’re not turning down an opportunity for a world title, if that is next.”
Coyle is ranked in the top 5 by one of the four major sanctioning bodies. Depending on the rest of the division, Coyle could crack the Ring Magazine top 10 with a win or two over the next several months.
Despite 18 fights and having yet to face the upper echelon in the division, Coyle is confident in his abilities.
“I know I’m up there or at the top,” said Coyle, who is trained by Jim McLaughlin. “I feel I’m one of the best. When I spar against lower-level fighters, I feel like I fight at their level. When I spar against talented fighters, I feel like I elevate my game against them. I spar at my best against them. I know how to select my shots and outbox anyone. Now I just need that opportunity where I can do it against those at middleweight.”
After locating to Central Florida, Coyle has benefited from sparring against some of the sport’s top fighters.
“I’ve sparred a lot against (fringe super middleweight contender) Yamaguchi Falcao,” said Coyle. “I’ve sparred against (former world light heavyweight title challenger) Radivoje Kalajdzic, and (junior middleweight prospect) Marques Valle. I get great work from them.
Coyle was a top amateur before turning pro in October 2016. He became close with featherweight contender Michael Conlan as they competed overseas in tournaments representing Northern Ireland.
As both trend their way towards the top of their respective divisions, Coyle understands they each have to focus on their pro career, but they still keep tabs on one another.
“I would stay over at Michael’s house during the amateurs,” said Coyle. “I’m still close with Michael. We are just focused on our own career. We look at each other and know that we keep progressing.”
Despite the late start to his pro career, Coyle believes he is on the right path. He hopes to make a statement at the expense of Rios and ensure the rest of the division knows who Connor Coyle is.
“(The) COVID (pandemic) did slow down my progress and career. Who knows where my career would be if that didn’t happen. I’m still moving towards my goal. I’m still a contender. I’m still a fresh middleweight. I’m not banged up at all.
“I want to step up and move onto bigger stages. I want to make a big statement on Saturday night.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]
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