Andy Lee eyes another World title shot, Michael Conlan blasts out debut win

Ciarán Gallagher reports from New York
20 March, 2017 01:00

Michael Conlan has two potential fight dates lined up for his next ring outing after his victorious debut last weekend, while Andy Lee remains hopeful of finishing his career with another world-title shot.

Both fighters were in action in New York over the weekend, with Conlan attracting a sell-out crowd of 5,102 boisterous Irish fans to the Madison Square Garden Theater on Friday.

Conor McGregor walked the Belfast native into the ring ahead of his third-round stoppage win over American novice journeyman Tim Ibarra and Conlan had a McGregor-style level of hype attached to his debut.

Promoters Top Rank now appear likely to maintain that momentum as fight dates in Boston and California over the next two months are up for consideration.

A potential May date in Boston would be likely to see the 25-year-old Belfast native fight in front of another predominantly Irish-American crowd. Alternatively, Conlan could feature on the same fight card as Olympic rival Shakur Stevenson’s debut on April 22 in California.

Top Rank chief Bob Arum has admitted that the US promotional giants plan to build towards a super-fight between Conlan and Stevenson, the Rio 2016 silver medallist who would have met Conlan at the Olympics but for the Irishman’s contentious defeat to Russian Vladimir Nikitin.

“That’s possible, it could be one of the two,” said Conlan’s manager, Matthew Macklin, the former European middleweight champion.

“From a hype point of view it would be good to go to Boston and build straight off the back of what’s happened in New York.

“But it wouldn’t do any harm from building a fight [against Stevenson]… to go to [California].

“[It would be] a bit more low key He could settle down and then that will be likee a real pro debut,” added Macklin, referring to a relatively anxious performance from the Belfast native last Friday.

Conlan easily stopped Ibarra when overwhelming him with punches in the third round but the 25-year-old lacked composure at times in front of a wild crowd.

Five years to the day since Macklin fought then-world middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez at the same venue, losing out in the 11th round of that fight, Conlan’s manager admitted his protégé was overly eager to please his strong support.

“It reminded me of when I put Martinez down and when that happened, you could hear the volume rapidly increasing,” said Macklin. “There was a little rush of blood to the head, he got excited and the crowd went bananas, so it was natural that he went for the finish.

“It was like a Ricky Hatton fight in Las Vegas. It was like a Conor McGregor fight. It was that level of atmosphere I think, next time, he will be prepared ffor it.”

Lee, meanwhile, is likely to take a short break due to the imminent birth of his first child in the summer.

The Limerick man made a successful return to the ring over the weekend, beating Alabama’s cagey KeAndrae Leatherwood. That marked Lee’s return following a 16-month absence after the loss of his WBO world title to England’s Billy Joe Saunders in Manchester back in 2015.

Featuring on the undercard of world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s points win over Daniel Jacobs, the 32-year-old southpaw recorded a no-nonsense eight-round unanimous decision.

Lee admitted that is was an underwhelming performance but the 32-year-old was happy to shake off his ring rust as he looks to chase a title shot against the dangerous ‘Triple G’ Golovkin.

“In an ideal world, I’ll win the world title again so that’s whhat I am out to do, but we’ll see,” Lee said on his remaining ring ambitions. “I’d like to fight Triple G of course, he’s the best.”

Saunders is now ironically a stablemate of Lee under trainer Adam Booth and the Englishman seems to be a likely candidate to get a shot at the true middleweight champion, although a big fight against Mexican Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez also remains a possibility for Golovkin.

“I’m ready for the fight if it ever came my way,” Lee said. “I know you wouldn’t believe it on that performance [against Leatherwood], but I know I’m ready and it’s about levels and the competition you’re in with so we ll see.”

20 March, 2017 01:00 Boxing