Boxing

Michael Conlan vows to take out Takoucht on the way to super-bantamweight title

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

THE world will see a different Michael Conlan on Saturday night when he returns to the ring against former European champion and world featherweight title challenger Sofiane Takoucht at London’s York Hall on Saturday night.

There wasn’t much wrong with the old Conlan of course but he hasn’t fought since his Madison Square Garden masterclass against Vladimir Nikitin in December and, after the frustration of seeing his March outing lost to the Coronavirus pandemic, the unbeaten (13-0) west Belfast fighter is raring to go as chief support on a BT Sport bill headlined by Carl Frampton’s comeback against Scotland’s Darren Traynor.

There has been some criticism of his French opponent. Takoucht was dismantled by Josh Warrington in Leeds last October but his record going into the fight was good (albeit at European level) and getting out-gunned by IBF champion Warrington in his Yorkshire backyard is not a disgrace.

“He was like a rabbit in the headlights against Warrington that night,” said Conlan.

“So I don’t take anything from it. I’d be a fool to take anything from it and I have prepared properly for this fight. The guy has as many knockouts as I’ve had fights and he’s only had four losses (35-4-1) and Warrington is the only man who has stopped him.

“He’s not some novice who doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s really experienced and he’s a tricky southpaw who can be very awkward at times but I’m very, very confident. I’ve worked on a lot of things in the gym which I know will show through.

“I’ll be going in there fully prepared and really excited. I’m really, really excited for the fight, I haven’t been as excited for a fight in a long time. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in, I’m the strongest I’ve been and the fittest I’ve been. I’m flying at the minute.”

Saturday night will be Conlan’s farewell to the featherweight division. The former world amateur champion intends to return to super-bantamweight and chase a world title at 122lbs.

“That’s the plan and I’m happy enough,” he said.

“I’ve come out of the lockdown a different animal. Going down to 122 has always been talked about, it got put off after the Nikitin fight but I know how well I can do that weight and how big and strong I can be.”

American Angelo Leo (20-0) won the vacant WBO super-bantam title on August 1 after a unanimous decision win over ‘Mighty Midget’ Tramaine Williams. Conlan will be chasing that belt after Saturday night.

“I want a world title fight next if possible,” he said.

“If not, we’ll see what happens next year. It doesn’t matter to me when it is because I know I’ll be world champion very soon. But I’m not looking ahead of this one (Takoucht) because I could easily fall into the trap of saying ‘super-bantam is next and I’m going to win a world title’ and get caught.

“But I know 100 per cent that I’m going to go in there and do the business on Saturday night. The way I’ve felt in the training camp I had has given me that unstoppable belief again.

“I’m hungry (for success) and I put it down to the lockdown, it has set me up and it was a reset button on my career and I know what I want to achieve. You’ll see a different a different Michael Conlan on Saturday night.”

Saturday night is the second time Conlan and Frampton have appeared on the same bill after Conlan boxed on the Warrington-Frampton show in Manchester in December 2018.

“It’s always an honour to share a card with, in my opinion, Ireland’s best-ever fighter,” said Michael.

“I hope to emulate and surpass what he has achieved but he is an unbelievable fighter and human being and it’s always an honour to share a card with him.”

 

 

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Boxing