"I'll have an answer for everything Leigh Wood tries," says Michael Conlan as Padraig McCrory shines in Ulster Hall spectacular

Padraig McCrory lands with a left hook against Celso Neves during their WBO International Silver super-middleweight title bout at the Ulster Hall on Saturday night. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Padraig McCrory lands with a left hook against Celso Neves during their WBO International Silver super-middleweight title bout at the Ulster Hall on Saturday night. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

MICHAEL Conlan says he’ll have an answer for every question Leigh Wood asks when they do battle for the Englishman’s WBO featherweight title next year.

Wood’s handler Eddie Hearn won purse bids to promote the contest last week and Nottingham, Belfast and New York’s Madison Square Garden are all possible venues.

Conlan says: “They’re aiming for New York” and that where he wants to fight.

“I don’t care where it is really, I’d love it to be in New York but at the end of the day I’m not the champion so if I have to go to Nottingham I’ll go to Nottingham,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter where it is, I know I’m going to beat him so if it’s Nottingham – great. If it’s Belfast – great. If it’s New York – even better. I’m not worried where it is but I can’t see it being at the City Ground (the home of Nottingham Forest) in March.”

Wood has dismissed Conlan’s prospects at featherweight already. He believes the punching power that has seen him stop 15 of his 27 opponents will be key to a successful first defence of his title.

“Of course he’s confident,” said former world amateur champion and Olympic Games medallist Conlan.

“He’s the champion, he carries power and he believes in his power more than anyone I’ve ever met. I’ve been in with big punchers before so it is what it is – he has to hit me first. Anyway I know I can take a shot as well so it doesn’t really bother me.

“He talks a big game and he’s confident but I’m massively confident. He does punch hard, he has great technical ability but I think I have an answer for everything he does. I’ll grab this opportunity with both hands, I won’t let it slip and I know I’ll become world champion in my next fight.”

Of course Michael is no longer just a fighter these days. Along with his brother Jamie, he has launched management/promotional company Conlan Boxing and together they hope to recreate the magic of the golden Barney Eastwood era in Belfast.

“It’s exciting,” he said.

“It’s something we’ve been speaking about for a long time. Over the last couple of years Jamie has gathered all the knowledge he needs to do these kind of shows and I always wanted to get into this side of the game after boxing. I never thought I would be a trainer, I always thought I would like to manage fighters and do a bit of promoting too.”

The first two Conlan Boxing signings are imminent and Michael sees the new venture as the legacy he will leave to the sport in Ireland when he eventually hangs up his gloves. Boxing icon Barney Eastwood, who packed out the Kings Hall during the 1980s glory nights of Barry McGuigan and Dave Boy McAuley is the yardstick they want to be measured against.

“What Barney Eastwood did for Belfast boxing was unbelievable and unmatched to this day,” said Michael.

“If we can emulate Barney Eastwood, or even do half of what he did we’ll be doing well. We want to take fighters from the start and build them into world champions and I believe, with the talent we have here, that’s a possibility.

“We weren’t really cared about here until Carl (Frampton) started bringing the big shows here twice a year. We want to bring regular shows here with big promoters – not just Conlan Boxing. The landscape of boxing has definitely changed and it has opened up massively.”

THEY call him ‘The Hammer’ and Padraig McCrory showed why on Friday night when a vicious left hook brought a second round end to what was shaping up to be a terrific battle against Celso Neves at the Ulster Hall.

McCrory has work to do defensively but money couldn’t buy the one-punch power the Belfast super-middleweight possesses and, after he landed clean early in the second, Neves’s night was over. The show was screened live across the USA on ESPN so McCrory’s stunning win is certain to have transformed his profile and the same is true for Lewis Crocker, Sean McComb and James McGivern who all won impressively last weekend.

Results from the Ulster Hall:

World Boxing Council International Silver super-middleweight title: Padraig McCrory (13-0) bt Celso Neves (8-1-2) KO2

World Boxing Organisation European welterweight title: Lewis Crocker (14-0) bt Artem Haroyan (17-2-2)

Lightweight: Sean McComb (13-1) bt Ronnie Clark (21-6-2)

Lightweight: James McGivern (4-0) Rustem Fatkhullin (8-12)

Lightweight: Cian Lewis (2-0) bt Juan Yin (4 -1-1)

Super-welterweight: Paul Ryan (2-0) bt Damian Esquisabel (4-7)

Super-welterweight: Daniel Keating (5-0) bt Jack Ewbank (5-1-1)

TONY Nellins is determined to make up for lost time and impress when returns to action after almost three years on the sidelines on Mark Dunlop’s MHD Promotions bill at the Europa Hotel on Saturday night.

Dan Anderson-trained Nellins, who made his pro debut way back in 2010, progressed to 5-0-1 in a stop-start career and now, aged 30, the unbeaten and dedicated lightweight plans to start climbing the ladder towards title level.

“The whole time since 2019 I haven’t stopped training, I haven’t got out of shape,” said the ambitious Kevin Maree-managed fighter.

“Things didn’t go my way early in my career. My first fight was on a Frank (now Kelly) Maloney card at the Kings Hall and I was supposed to be on three fights with him but he didn’t come back to Belfast after Martin Lindsay got beat that night.”

Since then Nellins had a spell with Alio Promotions but opportunities proved to be few and far between over the years. Now, with Belfast on the brink of a boxing boom, Nellins hopes to kick off the second chapter of his career with a momentum-injecting victory on Saturday night.

“I’m 30 so there’s no more time to mess about, this is the last crack at it for me,” says ‘Turbo’.

“Father Time isn’t on my side and I’ve got five years here to give it a go and give it my all. I want to get in and get up to 10-0 and then take some 50-50 domestic dust-ups and get a title under my belt and see what I can do from there.

“I don’t want to look back and say: ‘Ah I should have done this, or I could have done that…’ I’d rather give it my all now and maybe leave a bit of a legacy.

“There’s still time. I haven’t been knocked about the ring a lot, I’m relatively fresh when it comes to sparring and I’m looking at what Mark Dunlop’s done with James Tennyson and Paul Hyland. I used to box with those guys in the amateurs and how well they have done for themselves and I don’t think there’s any reason I couldn’t do that too.”

For tickets to Saturday night’s bill, contact Tony on 07889288614.

Europa Hotel card:

Lightweight: John Cooney (5-0) v Ezequiel Gregores (2-5)

Super-featherweight: Colm Murphy (1-0) v Laszlo Szoke (2-7)

Lightweight: Tony Nellins (5-0-1) v Jamie Quinn (8-118-2)

Super-featherweight: Mathew Fitzsimons (5-1) v Luke Fash (2-69-3)

Cruiserweight: Conor Cooke (3-0) v TBA