Feile an Phobail working towards August 1 date for Michael Conlan-headlined fight night

Michael Conlon celebrates after stopping Diego Alberto Ruiz at last year's Feile. Picture Mark Marlow...
Michael Conlon celebrates after stopping Diego Alberto Ruiz at last year's Feile. Picture Mark Marlow... Michael Conlon celebrates after stopping Diego Alberto Ruiz at last year's Feile. Picture Mark Marlow...

FEILE an Phobail organisers are confident that the annual west Belfast festival – which could be headlined in a sporting context by Michael Conlan’s world title shot – will go ahead in late July/early August as scheduled.

Last year 10,000 boxing fans packed out a purpose-built amphitheatre in Falls Park to cheer on Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Paudie McCrory, Alfredo Meli, Sean McComb, Paddy Gallagher, Luke Keeler and other Irish fighters and this year’s Feile promises to be even better.

News that current WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson has vacated his title to move to super-featherweight means the path is now clear for Conlan to fight for the title on home soil. There had been speculation that the event would be moved to September but Feile director Kevin Gamble says that, at the moment, that’s not the case.

“We’re ploughing away towards our original date which is the 30th of July until the 9th of August,” Kevin explained.

“We’re taking account of developments and we’ll continue to keep an eye on that but we’re still planning towards our original dates. We’ll follow all the right advice and guidance and until we hear anything else then the dates are as they were set.

“If these have to change then we’ll certainly adapt but all our energy and focus is on trying to hit the target date of 30th of July.”

The Conlan-headlined Feile bill is due to take place on Saturday, August 1. Last year the former world amateur champion stopped Diego Alberto Ruiz to bring down the curtain on a truly memorable night’s boxing and this year, with a world title potentially on the table, could raise the bar even higher.

“It would be absolutely unbelievable for Mick to fight for the title and we are talking with the MTK and Top Rank teams,” said Kevin.

“We’ve been talking to them since last year and the talk was always that it would be a world title eliminator or, ideally if all the cards fell right, a world title shot for Mick and that’s the way it seems to be shaping up. Given what everyone is going through, it would be a massive boost for Feile and particularly for the community across the city to have Mick Conlan fighting for a world title at Falls Park. What a boost that would be for sport and for the city in general.”

The capacity for last year’s bill – which was broadcast live on BT Sport and ESPN - was 10,000 but that could be increased for this year’s event.

“We are looking at all our options and this year we are looking at a capacity of 10,000-upwards for the boxing,” Kevin explained.

“We have to work within the space that we have so we’re talking with a number of different companies at the minute to try and map out the Falls Park event space and see what we can fit in there. If it’s a world title fight we want the place to look as good as possible – it’ll be west Belfast beamed across the world.

“I would assume it will be between 10,000 and 13,000. That’s what we’ll aim for. If things go according to plan regarding Covid-19 and people heed the (social distancing) advice then Feile could be the first opportunity people have to get back out.

“Our job then will be to put on the biggest and best Feile ever to celebrate the community and the effort people have put in and there would be no better way of doing that than putting a world title fight on and having it broadcast across the world to show people what we’re all about.

“Getting the fight on BT Sports and ESPN last year lifted our figures in terms of the target we have to meet for funding to another level. It gave us worldwide exposure and we were the second biggest event, after The Open, in terms of media coverage in Ireland which was something else.”