Boxing

Top Rank chief Bob Arum expected in Belfast to announce Michael Conlan opponent for Falls Park summer spectacular

Michael Conlan will top the bill at Falls Park as part of Feile an Phobail on August 3
Andy Watters

TOP Rank chief and boxing Hall of Famer Bob Arum is due to arrive in Belfast next week for a press conference to announce the opponent for Michael Conlan’s Falls Park spectacular on August 3.

Former Olympic Games opponent Vladimir Nikitin is expected to be the man in the opposite corner when Conlan takes to the ring, live on ESPN, in the centrepiece of the Feile an Phobail festival in west Belfast. Conlan was unable to confirm that but he does predict “a truly spectacular night” on his former stomping ground.

“It’s always been a dream for me to box somewhere like Casement Park or Croke Park but the nearest thing to Casement for me is the Falls Park,” he said.

“I never thought it would have been possible but thanks to Feile, MTK and Top Rank for putting together this fantastic event. It’s going to be unbelievable.”

Conlan was scheduled to fight in Los Angeles on June 8 but he has pulled out of that fight to concentrate on his preparation for the Feile bill.

“We want to focus 100 per cent on this bill and not have any distractions or any potential injuries,” he said.

“It’s full focus on the Feile and nothing in between. It’s very important for me that I focus totally on this one, it’s 12 weeks away and I’m already in London training and I’m going to have a world championship kind of camp.”

As a youngster, Conlan says he had “fair digs” with his mates in the Falls Park. He has been the headline act at the Madison Square Garden Theatre three times on St Patrick’s weekend but admits there could be a few extra nerves when he takes the ring surrounded by his home fans.

“It’s something that I’m already used to,” he said.

“It’s nothing new to me, I’ve done the big nights, I’ve done the big events and this is just another one of them. There might be extra nerves because it is the Falls Park but it’s not going to be anything that I haven’t experienced.

“But I can say that now – it might be different when I get in there and everybody is going crazy! Growing up, I used to go to the Falls Park and have fair digs and now I’m getting paid to fight there! “It’s a special, special feeling and I’m really proud to be getting a fight in my own back garden.”

Fellow West Belfast fighters like Padraig McCrory and Sean McComb are expected to appear on the undercard. Conlan, who moved to 11-0 with six stoppages wins by beating Ruben Garcia Hernandez in March, says the bill will include boxers from across the city and across the country.

“It will be a truly spectacular night,” he predicts.

“It will be a great representation of Belfast boxing because it won’t just be me, there’ll be many more fighters from west Belfast and all round Belfast and Ireland.

“I think there’ll be a fantastic atmosphere and fans can expect an evening of great boxing and a spectacular main event.”

 

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