Boxing

Michael Conlan all set for 'Big Garden' fight night

Michael Conlan could meet Olympic rival Vladimir Nikitin again after the Russian joined him in the professional ranks

MICHAEL Conlan has his first fight in the cavernous Madison Square Garden main arena when he takes on Spanish hopeful Ibon Larrinaga (10-1) tomorrow night.

Conlan has packed out the ‘Theatre' at the iconic New York boxing venue three times since he turned pro last year. But this time he is part of the star-studded supporting cast in the 21,000 capacity stadium for the WBA lightweight title super fight between pound for pound kings Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko.

“It's very special,” said Conlan (6-0).

“It's like my second home now, but this is my first time fighting in the big Garden (the main arena) and I'm fighting a Spanish kid who's 10-1 and he's going to bring something different than my previous opponents have.

“I've trained hard, sparring has been great and the changes I've made with Adam Booth since I moved to London have been fantastic. I feel like I'm improving all the time as a fighter.”

Conlan insists that his focus is on tomorrow night's fight, even though he has already announced his Belfast professional debut in June 30 when he is expected to meet Adeilson Dos Santos.

“In the amateurs I have overlooked people and then lost,” he explained.

“I remember Vincenzo Bicarb. I beat him at the DC (Donegal Celtic) and then he beat me in the European Championships because I thought I was going to walk over him. I've learned my lesson and since then I make sure I don't overlook anybody.

“I've had a great training camp, I've been sparring 10-12 rounds and I'm feeling good. I'm looking forward to getting in and showing what I've been learning in this camp.

“It has been exciting and I'm feeling it in the gym and feeling it in sparring.”

The milestones should keep coming for Conlan who could face Rio Olympic Games opponent Vladimir Nikitin next year after the Russian also joined the professional ranks. Nikitin, who was awarded a shocking decision in Rio and was then forced to quit the tournament because of his injuries, has been in touch with Conlan on social media.

“The Russian has given me a bit of focus on where I want to be and who I want to fight,” he said.

“People ask me: ‘Who do you want to fight?' The only person I want to fight now is that Russian. I have nothing against him personally; I just want to get that victory which I know I should have had.

“He sent me a message in Russian and I translated it. It said: ‘I am your friend'. I didn't know whether he was trying to play mind games or whether he was a bit scared, but I never said anything bad about him, it was more IABA.

“I didn't message him back. I've spoken to him before but now I'm in a zone where he is my enemy and he is a person I want to beat, so I won't be interacting with him.

“I would love to fight him here (in Belfast). I think it would grab more people here than it would in New York although an Irish guy fighting a Russian… Americans love that stuff.”

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