Boxing

Michael Conlan: Sometimes I find myself letting my mind wander but I can't

Michael Conlan out-classed Vladimir Nikitin at Madison Square Garden in December
Andy Watters

MICHAEL Conlan admits he sometimes has to stop looking too far ahead and force himself to stay in the moment.

And rightly so because one moment in boxing, a loss of concentration for a split second, can be crucial and Conlan is well aware that a slip-up against dangerous Columbian Belmar Preciados in New York next week will throw a spanner into the works of plans for a Feile and Phobail in the summer and talk of a world title shot before the end of the year.

“Sometimes I find myself letting my mind wander (into the future) but I can’t, I can’t even talk about it now,” he said.

“There’s a lot riding on this guy (Preciado, 20-2-1) because if I don’t tick this box everything else after it doesn’t happen.

“I have to pull myself back and live in the moment; one fight, one round, one minute at a time. There’s no point in getting ahead of myself and not focussing on the job at hand because these Columbian fighters are very dangerous, they always are. The always have a good skillset and they can punch so I have to be very smart and go and get the job done.”

It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since Conlan made his pro debut at the Garden, led out to the ring by UFC mega-star Conor McGregor. He has a dozen more pro fights under his belt since then and says: “I’m a much more complete pro now than I was then.

“I’m still not the finished article but I’m much better now than I was then.

“I’m used to being under the spotlight; I’m used to the big show behind the show and everything that goes on with St Patrick’s Day in New York. It’s something that I am very grateful for, I can’t believe this is my fourth time headlining on St Patrick’s Day – it’s something so many people never get the chance to do in their career.”

Preciado is a gate-keeper, a tough South American who travelled to Japan to take on Hiroshige Osawa and was on top until one careless moment cost him dear.

All Conlan wants on St Patrick’s night is another win and despite out-classing Olympic Games nemesis Vladimir Nikitin at the Garden just before Christmas, he feels there are still keyboard warriors out there keen to put him down.

“You always get doubters and you always get haters but there is no point in feeding into that,” he said.

“If you’re in the limelight, you’re going to get criticised but I have learned how to deal with it now. With social media, people have 24/7 access to you and they can put messages on about you: ‘You’re shit’ or whatever it is and boxing fans see that.

“Sometimes those people should be held more accountable but it is what it is, it’s the world we live in and you have to deal with it and rise above it. I don’t read any of it now because if you do it’s like letting someone come into your livingroom and insult you to your face.”

 

THE cream always “rises to the top” said Belfast Kronk coach Tony Dunlop as he looked ahead to James Tennyson’s British Lightweight title rumble with Gavin Gwynne in Cardiff on May 9.

Hammer-handed Tennyson has carried his concussive power with him from featherweight up and Dunlop rates him as “world class puncher”.

“He’s doing brilliant,” said Dunlop.

“He’s already done a good bit of sparring and he’s ready to go. He’s improving, he’s getting stronger and he’s looking forward to this fight because this boy (Gywnne) is a game fighter, he comes forward but he might actually box this time. No matter what he does, it’s going to be a great fight because he’s a big-hearted guy and when it becomes toe-to-toe he’ll stand there. It’s going to be a war this fight, a real war.

“He’s not a natural boxer even though he’s got the height (Gwynne is six foot tall). He’s a warrior and if tries to out-box James, James will track him down and the guy will have to stand there. James will be on top of him and he’ll have to fight back.

“I’d say it will be the fight of the night – Tennyson’s fights usually are anyway. He’s a very exciting fighter, a world class puncher.

“He’s one of the hardest punchers in Europe, pound-for-pound, and he’s definitely the hardest puncher in Ireland. He is twisting into the shots brilliant now and he’s getting stronger, his punching power is going to get better. I expect a lot more knockouts to be honest, I can’t see many people going the distance with him.

“The few losses that he had, he was young and he was struggling with the weight big-time. I wasn’t too happy with him boxing at super-feather but lightweight suits him far better.

“He’s a very dedicated kid, as far as nightlife is concerned he doesn’t bother. He doesn’t abuse himself at all and because of that you see him improving every day. You’re going to see an even better James Tennyson than you’ve ever seen before.”

Tennyson’s only world title shot so far came against Tevin Farmer in Boston in late 2018. Weight-drained and out of sorts on the night, he never fought at super-feather again but has continued his wrecking-ball ways up at lightweight with four KO wins on-the-trot.

“He’s fought a good calibre of opponent all the way up, right from he was no-age,” said Dunlop.

“At the end of the day, the cream always rises to the top and Tennyson has a big heart, he has everything going for him.

“He’s already a world title contender - ranked 10 (WBO), 11 (WBA) and 15 (IBF) – so a British title is next and then a European title or a world title, whatever the case may be.

“It’s one fight at a time and whatever is put in front of him, he’ll take it.”

Meanwhile, Dunlop sang the praises of Javan ‘Sugar Hill’ Steward (nephew of late Kronk founder Emmanuel Steward) who guided Tyson Fury to the WBC heavyweight title with a comprehensive knockout win against Deontay Wilder.

“I stayed with him in Detroit,” said former pro fighter Dunlop.

“He’s a nice guy and a very good trainer, he has all the experience. He was a very good amateur and me and him coached Andy Lee for his fight at Madison Square Garden against Carl Daniels.

“He is as good as you would get. There’s a lot of boys coaching out there and they’re all YouTube men, talking good, fancy stuff but they don’t have the experience. Sugar Hill has all the knowledge and the experience.”

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