World title fight is next says number one ranked contender Michael Conlan

A shot at the WBO world featherweight title fight is next, says number one ranked contender Michael Conlan
Andy Watters

THE date and the venue remain in the lap of the Gods, but Michael Conlan is certain that his next fight will be a shot at the world featherweight title.

Boxing remains shut down but developments outside the ring over the weekend saw reigning WBO champion Shakur Stevenson announce that he intends to move up to the super-featherweight limit of 130lbs. That means he’ll give up his title and leave Conlan, the number one-ranked featherweight with the WBO, in pole position to fight for the vacant belt.

That could happen in August at Feile an Phobail in Falls Park but the battle against the spread of Covid-19 takes precedence over sport and Conlan may have to bide his time. Number two-ranked American Ruben Villa 18-0 and number-three ranked Englishman Ryan Walsh are possible opponents for when the fight does go ahead.

“It (Stevenson moving up) has opened the door,” said Top Rank fighter Conlan.

“It was supposed to be the St Patrick’s Day fight (which was cancelled) and then the title shot for me but I’d say it’ll be straight to the title shot now. I’m still hoping that I’ll box for the world title this summer and I’m still on course for that so, all being well, it’ll go ahead.

“I’m the number one contender so I’m delighted to be honest. I always believed that I’d win a world title this year – hopefully in Belfast – so all being well Feile will be when it happens but it all depends on when boxing can get back.”

Twenty-two year old Californian southpaw Villa is in the frame to be in the opposite corner and so too is vastly-experienced Walsh who has developed a reputation as an ‘Irish-killer’ with victories against James Tennyson, Marco McCullough and, most recently, Tyrone McCullagh. Others include Columbian Miguel Marriaga and Jesse Magdaleno.

“Ryan Walsh would be a good fight for me. He’s closer to home and obviously he’s just beaten my mate (McCullagh) so I’d like that fight,” said Conlan, who knows Magdaleno from his time with trainer Manny Robles in Los Angeles.

“It’s business, if we have to fight each other it’s no problem, I can still be mates with the guy, it’s just business. If it’s Jesse, it’s Jesse and if it’s someone else, that’s OK too.

“My opportunity is coming and I’ve always said that when I get the chance to box for a title I’ll grab it with both hands. I will not fail and it doesn’t matter who it is.”

In the meantime, Conlan is using the enforced break wisely. He has a gym in his garage and has gone back to basics, breaking down skills and pushing himself with dedication for when boxing gets the green light to begin again.

“I’m training hard,” he said.

“I ran 12k yesterday and I want to run a half-marathon this week so I’m getting plenty of running in. I’m doing full boxing sessions, just working on my jab, working on my defence… I’m devoting a full session to one specific thing and I feel that this break will benefit me.

“It has given me time to improve on the things I need to improve on. During a full camp, you don’t get to do that. When you’re training for a fight you’re just thinking about what you need to do for that fight, you’re never thinking: ‘I need to improve on things, let’s work on what needs fixed’.

“So I’ve been training well but I’ve been eating what I want to eat and it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been enjoying training. I’m not training for a certain fighter or to make weight, I’m just training because I can.

“I’m doing a lot of baking, but I’m not eating everything I’m baking!”



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