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Conlan: I want to fight Frampton in 'Battle of Belfast' in 2018

Michael Conlan after his return home from Doha last week  
Neil Loughran

AMATEUR star Michael Conlan admits he would love a 2018 ‘Battle of Belfast’ with Carl Frampton – and says he is “100 per cent confident” he will beat the reigning IBF super-bantamweight champion.

Conlan’s focus is firmly on adding Olympic gold to the historic World Championship gold won in Qatar last week, but he has made no secret of his intention to turn professional after next summer’s Rio Games.

Boxing at bantamweight as an amateur, the 23-year-old intends to enter the pro ranks in the super-bantam division, and Conlan believes that by 2018 he could force a home city derby with fellow Belfast boy Frampton.

“Yeah, definitely - I would hope it would be a possibility because it would be huge for Belfast. It would be phenomenal,” said Conlan, who also won gold at the European Championships in August.

“I’d be 100 per cent confident of beating Carl because you have to be – it’s boxing. I believe I am the best. I want to have a world title within two years of turning over after Rio. So then you’re looking at 2018 – he’ll be 31, I’ll be 26. That would be perfect.

“It all depends if he’s still at the top - it’s a hard division and age is a factor too. But I’d love a shot at Carl in the pro game because I believe 100 per cent I’d beat him.”

The pair never crossed paths as amateurs, with Frampton joining manager Barry McGuigan back in 2009 and Conlan coming to the fore in the years since, most notably in the Middle East last week when he became the first Irishman to win gold at the World Championships.

Unbeaten Frampton (21-0), meanwhile, is one of the top Irish fighters to emerge since his manager McGuigan’s 1980s heyday, regularly filling out Belfast’s SSE Arena and culminating in his world title win over Spain’s Kiko Martinez in September 2014.

Despite his fighting talk, Conlan has nothing but respect for the Tigers Bay fighter. The pair know each other on a personal level outside the ring, with Conlan’s fellow Olympian Paddy Barnes a close friend of both. But business is business and Conlan – who revealed he has had approaches from top American promoters Golden Boy and Top Rank in the past year – knows boxing can be a short career and every opportunity must be grabbed with both hands.

He continued: “I have the utmost respect for Carl, he’s a great fighter. His movement and footwork are very good, he has good power and he’s an exciting fighter to watch. I think he’s a great person as well, he’s a gentleman and a great ambassador for boxing in Ireland, he really is.

“I talk away to Carl no problem, it’s nothing personal. But if a fight does happen, I’d be confident of beating him. I’d be confident of beating him now if I went pro.

“I want to go into the professional game and make as much money as possible. I believe I’ll go straight into six or eight rounders, I want to fight quality opposition from the start. I’m still young, so I don’t need to be moved too fast, but I want to be a multiple weight world champion and I believe I have the ability to do that.

“First and foremost, though, I have to go to Rio and win that gold medal, and I have total belief I’m going to do that.”

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