Boxing

Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes in action on undercard of Carl Frampton versus Josh Warrington showdown

Michael Conlan (left) and Jason Cunningham during the weigh in at Manchester Central yesterday
Andy Watters

WBO Inter-Continental Featherweight title: Michael Conlan (9-0) v Jason Cunningham (24-5)

THE winner of this will get a top 10 ranking with the WBO and Conlan admits he’ll be nervous before he gets going against Doncaster tough nut Cunningham tonight.

But those nerves will keep him sharp and the west Belfast fighter, who hit the scales yesterday bang on the nine-stone limit, predicts a “serious performance” live on BT Sport.

“I feel good, I’m looking forward to it and it should be an exciting night,” said the Top Rank star.

“I was lying in bed last night and I had an awful lot of positive thoughts coming into my head of how I’m going to do things, how I’m going to approach this.

“The closer it gets, the more confident I’m getting. I’ve never felt more confident or more excited for a fight yet as a professional. I know it’s a task, I know it’s a challenge and I’ll be nervous but it’ll be nerves that I haven’t had as a pro.

“I’ll be switched on completely but at the same time confident and comfortable. I think Jason Cunningham is in for a hell of a night.”

Cunningham is a former Commonwealth bantamweight champion who has been around the block. He knows opportunity is knocking for him but Conlan doesn’t intend to allow him to open the door.

“This could be a hard fight if I let it be but I won’t,” said Conlan.

“I’m going to break him down, not by throwing my hands, but with technical things where I can work him out. I’ll keep the distance and then, when it gets deeper, I’m going to beat him up. That’s all it is.

“I’m ready and this is the right time, the right opponent and I’m expecting myself to put on a serious performance.

“I feel very lucky to be in the position I’m in and I’m very grateful.

“It comes with pressure and expectation but this is another step on the ladder for me, that’s all it is.”

Flyweight: Paddy Barnes (5-1) v Isaac Quaye (31-18-1)

PADDY Barnes weighed in well over the eight-stone flyweight limit but he and trainer Danny Vaughan are confident of victory tonight and great things next year.

Barnes takes on vastly-experienced Isaac Quaye in an untelevised six-rounder at the Manchester Arena and trainer Vaughan expects Barnes’ first win of 2018 in only his second fight - the first was that WBC title loss to Cristofer Rosales back in August.

“We’re trying to get him back on track with a six-rounder tomorrow and then push for the big fights next summer,” said Vaughan.

“We’ll get this one out of the way, maybe have another fight in March and then we’re looking at a world title shot come the summer.

“He was winning the last fight in our eyes, he didn’t look out of place and that body shot would have put anyone over. That’s boxing.

“We’ll get 2018 out of the way, finish strong and then we’re looking at pushing for a world title next year.”

Barnes, doing things his own way as always, didn’t boil himself down to eight-stone with no belt at stake tonight.

“It’s not a world title fight so I didn’t really try to make the weight,” he said.

“I trained hard but I didn’t have to make the weight.

“I want to get six rounds in, I don’t plan on going out and being really aggressive. My plan is to box a bit more, try and slip and roll like pros do. I just want to get the rounds, I need the rounds.”

Vacant BBBofC British Middleweight title: Mark Heffron (21-0) v Liam Williams (18-2-1)

THERE is no love lost in tonight’s chief support between this feuding duo and Heffron has revenge on his mind against Welsh hardman Williams who holds a win over his brother Ronnie four years ago.

There were insults traded during the press conference when Williams, who lost a WBO light-middleweight challenge against Liam Smith last year, repeatedly told Heffron he was “gonna get smashed”.

He is a dangerous puncher but smashing unbeaten Heffron is easier said than done because he is the naturally the bigger man and goes into the fight on a run of four consecutive knockout wins which included a WBC International title victory over Andrew Robinson.

He moves up a level tonight and a war is guaranteed. “I’m gonna hurt him, bad,” boasted Williams at yesterday’s weigh-in.

Heffron countered: “I’m gonna knock him out, I’m gonna finish him off good and proper.”

Prediction: Heffron

Middleweight: Martin Murray (37-4-1) v Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (36-3)

LAST time I saw Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, he was getting his hair cut in Marty Quinn’s barbers in Donegall Street. The Frenchman had a brief spell training with Tony Dunlop in Belfast back in 2014 that included an appearance at the National Stadium in Dublin.

Since then he has won, then lost, the WBA middleweight title and he hopes to get back into the title mix by beating seasoned campaigner Murray tonight.

Murray is the veteran of world title fights against Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin and knows his next defeat will be his last. Now training with Jamie Moore, he says he has the fire back in his belly and aims to recapture his sparkle tonight. If he does he should win this.

Prediction: Murray

Super-middleweight: Billy Joe Saunders (26-0) v Charles Adamu (32-13)

A LOW-key return for Saunders who hasn’t fought since his slick victory over David Lemieux in Canada last December.

Saunders looked to have the world at his feet back then but he is no stranger to controversy and he was forced to give up his WBO title in October after testing positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine and was denied a licence by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission.

Prediction: Saunders

Heavyweight: Nathan Gorman (14-0) v Razvan Cojanu (16-4)

Flyweight: Harvey Horn (3-0) v Josue Bendana (10-8-4)

Light-heavyweight: Lyndon Arthur (12-0) v Emmanuel Feuzeu (10-9-2)

Middleweight: Troy Williamson (7-0-1) v Rafal Jackiewicz (50-20-2)

Super-lightweight: Sam Maxwell (9-0) v Jamie Quinn (4-74-2)

Cruiserweight Jack Massey (14-0) v Jiri Svacina (13-32-0)

Light-heavyweight: Tommy Fury (debut) v Jevgenijs Andrejevs (10-102-3)

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