Michael Conlan returns to training as Dunlop signs former Scotland rugby star Nick Campbell

Michael Conlan returned to London yesterday to resume training with Adam Booth
Andy Watters

AFTER spending almost three months recovering from a serious ankle injury, Michael Conlan returned to London yesterday to resume training with coach Adam Booth.

Back in October, Conlan had just outclassed one-time world title challenger Sofiane Takoucht in London and had his mind set on fighting again before the end of the year.

But disaster struck after he finished a routine light sparring session. The Belfast super-bantam slipped on a bench as he was getting out of the ring, rupturing his ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) and split his CFL (calcaneofibular ligament) in the process. The injury ruined any plans he had for the rest of 2020 but he is back on his feet now and determined to win a world title this year.

“It (the recovery) isn’t all over yet,” he said.

“I still have a bit of rehabbing and stuff to do but it’s almost cleared up so we’re getting there. I’m able to get back training, I’m not able to do the same running I was doing but it’s just a matter of time.

“At the start I thought I’d be back sooner but it has been very tough. I’ve done all the rehab I needed to do but it was a bad injury and I knew I had to take my time because if I rush it I could put myself back another few weeks.”

The British Boxing Board of Control has suspended boxing for the rest of the month but there is a fight in Connecticut, USA on Saturday night which is of genuine interest to Conlan. Angelo Leo, the reigning WBO super-bantamweight champion, defends his WBO belt against former Carl Frampton sparring partner Steve Fulton and Conlan is scheduled to meet the winner.

“I’ll stay up to watch Connor McGregor and if I come across the Fulton fight I’ll be watching it,” he said.

“I think Fulton wins handy. I think Leo’s style will suit him but Leo is the champion and he could pull it off. Fulton might be too slick for him so it’s an interesting one and I’ll keep an eye on it.”

Conlan is not one for poring over footage of potential opponents. He leaves all that to his coach Adam Booth and to his dad John and his elder brother Jamie.

“No matter who I’m fighting I don’t watch any of them, I don’t like to focus too much on them,” he said.

“I don’t sit down and put my energy into it. My coach (Booth) is a genius when it comes to boxing so he’ll watch it and he’ll know and Jamie and my dad will watch it. I have a lot of great boxing minds surrounding me and I like to hear all their opinions.”

SCOTTISH heavyweight colossus Nick Campbell has joined Mark Dunlop’s Belfast fighting stable after swapping a professional rugby career to pursue a life-long dream of glory in the ring.

The 31-year-old former Scotland U20 World Cup, Glasgow Warriors and Jersey second row has spent the last four years in the amateur ranks during which time he became a Scotland international and won Scotland’s super-heavyweight title.

Campbell, who stands 6’7”, will be based in Belfast and will begin training with Tony Dunlop at the Kronk Gym before making his professional debut, possibly in Belgium next month.

“It’s exciting, I’m buzzing and I’m looking forward to cracking on and making the most of it,” said the Glaswegian.

“When I was growing up me and my dad would always get up and watch Lennox Lewis, he’s always been a hero of mine, I used to watch Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton… Boxing has always been a passion and in 2017 I decided to have a go at it because you only live once and you might as well give it a try.

“My grandfather was a professional so it’s always been in my family and I’ve always had an interest in it and a passion for the sport. It’s not something that I just woke up one day and thought: ‘Aye, I’ll have a go at that!’”

Campbell boxed as a schoolboy before rugby took over his sporting life. He has joined an MHD Promotions stable alongside James Tennyson, Tommy McCarthy, Paul Hyland jnr, Eric Donovan and Conor Quinn and hopes to make the same progress as his team-mates.

“I had a conversation with Mark (Dunlop) four years ago in Jersey when I was starting out in boxing and he advised me to go and get some experience. I’ve done that and I’ve kept an eye on all the fighters he’s been managing,” he said.

“Look at what he’s done with James Tennyson, he’s fought for a world title, he’s got Tommy McCarthy to the European title and he’s moving his other boys into title contention. Look at what he did with my fellow Scotsman Ronnie Clark – he got him to a European title.

“It speaks for itself what he’s been able to do so far.”

He’s well aware that it will take time to find his feet as a professional but Campbell is ambitious and very keen to get started on the road towards title belts.

“I’m getting into this to challenge for things and have a real go at it, otherwise: What’s the point?” he said.

“I know Mark is ambitious for me and my goal is to push myself as far as I can go. I don’t think there’s ever been a Scottish British or Commonwealth heavyweight champion at professional level so that would be something to aim for.”

Belfast’s fight manager Dunlop has built his boxers – including lightweight world title contender Tennyson – up from grassroots, small hall shows to title level; world title level in Tennyson’s case.

He says that his new signing Campbell also has the skillset to go “to the top”.

“I’ve been a fan and friend of Nick for a long time and I’m delighted he has chosen me to guide him on this part of his journey,” he said.

“He has been a top level athlete for most of his life and his short but impressive amateur boxing career has been to a very high standard, with a dynamite punch, granite chin, stamina in abundance and a huge fan base he has the attributes to take him to the top, I’m excited.”

Nick Campbell played for Scotland U20s and Glasgow Warriors during his rugby career

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