You win or you learn... Michael Conlan returns determined to force his way back into world title mix
MICHAEL Conlan will headline a 12-fight card at the Feile an Phobail in Falls Park on August 6 determined to bounce back against an unnamed but “recognisable, credible opponent”.
Leigh Wood is chasing a fight with Leo Santa Cruz and has declined a rematch with Conlan while EBU featherweight champion Jordan Gill has also turned down the fight. Kurt Walker and Kieran Molloy have been confirmed for undercard slots in the latest of the series of memorable fight nights at the west Belfast venue.
“It’s all looking good,” said Jamie Conlan who refused to disclose the identity of his brother’s opponent but did say the man in the other corner had “been in with some of the best fighters in the world”.
“We’re putting everything together and hopefully everything can be announced by Thursday, that’s what we’re aiming for. We’ll have a lot of Irish fighters on the card, some overseas fighters as well.
“We want to get Michael back into position to fight for the world title and that’s why he has taken a big fight to get straight back in.
“It’s not a handy, gimmick fight, it’s a recognisable, credible opponent who will get him back in the mix. The ball wasn’t in our court to make the decision on the Wood rematch.
“Despite how good Michael’s performance was against him, ultimately they’re the champions so they have the right to pursue Santa Cruz and whatever else. But we have positives to take from the fight, particularly Michael’s performance.
“He has been very driven to come back and fight Wood again and right the wrongs of the defeat but there are other ways of getting to it. We couldn’t get straight back into him and I understand Wood’s position, that he wouldn’t want to fight Michael again straight away because there’s the risk (of getting beaten).
“We want to get straight back into the world title mix and that’s what Michael’s focus is on now and we believe that beating this guy on August 6 will put us right back in the mix.”
EBU champion Gill, a close friend of Wood’s, had been mentioned as a possible opponent for Conlan but the Englishman showed no interest in the fight.
“There was no dialogue coming back from him,” said Jamie.
“Jordan Gill knows what happened to him in sparring with Michael, so I don’t blame him for not wanting to take the fight.”
The list of “recognisable, credible” opponents at featherweight is a long one but England’s Thomas Patrick Ward, who is ranked as number one contender with the WBA (Conlan is ranked four), has been ruled out.
Conlan was on the way to victory until the closing stages of his unforgettable March battle with Wood in Nottingham. Ahead on points but low on energy going into the final round, he was knocked ‘spark-out’ with 90 seconds remaining but elder brother Jamie predicts he will return wiser and better for the experience.
“There are two ways he could have taken the loss,” he said.
“One could have been damaging and detrimental to him in terms of his ego and mentality and how he performs in the future, the other is looking back and spotting the small mistakes that need to be rectified to become a world champion.
“The positive to take away from losing to Wood is that he is there or thereabouts as one of the best in the world and he took the defeat that way. He’s learned from it, he has come back hungrier and more determined than ever and he sees now that he isn’t invincible, he has to work harder than ever before and that has driven him on.
“I think you’re going to see an even better Michael and I’ve already seen a better man outside of the ring in how he has taken this on the chin and accepted defeat and learned from defeat like a man. That’s testament to him and his character and how much he has grown.”
Conlan dropped Wood heavily with a looping left hand in the first round in Nottingham and pushed the local man to the brink of defeat in the second. To his immense credit, Wood recovered and Jamie had to catch his brother when he fell unconscious through the ropes in the final round.
“I was just happy to see him alright after it,” said Jamie.
“How he has come back from it is unbelievable and the best of him is still to come. I’ve been in very tough fights myself so I know how dangerous this game is and I’ve seen it up close and personal from inside and outside the ring.”
KURT Walker could miss out on appearing at Madison Square Garden next month. The Lisburn super-featherweight was scheduled to fight at the Hulu Theatre at the New York venue on June 18 but the cut he sustained in his last fight – a composed points win over Stefan Nicolae on the undercard of Tyson Fury v Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in April – hasn’t healed as quickly as expected.
Adam Booth-trained Walker may have to keep his powder dry until the Falls Park on August 6 when he will make his Irish debut.
Meanwhile, Galway native Molloy will face US light-middleweight Jonathan Burrs (4-5) on the ‘Big Apple’ card. Like Walker, Molloy made his professional debut in Glasgow back in February on the undercard of Josh Taylor versus Jack Catterall.
The main event is the light-heavyweight unification battle between WBC/IBF world champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO king Joe Smith Jr.
MATCHROOM promoter Eddie Hearn says Canelo Alvarez must fight Gennadiy Golovkin in September rather than pursuing a rematch with WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.
Canelo lost on points to the Russian and is keen to avenge the defeat but Hearn says the Mexican first has to attend to unfinished business with ‘Triple G’.
Alvarez and Golovkin traded leather in 2017 and again a year later. The first fight finished a draw and Canelo won a majority decision in the rematch and said afterwards: “I feel satisfied because I gave a great fight. It was a clear victory.”
Golovkin disagreed, saying: “The victory belongs to Canelo, according to the judges. I thought it was a very good fight for the fans and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did."
Hearn says the trilogy fight has to happen this year.
“We’ve got to make that fight,” he said.
“But he (Canelo) is desperate to fight Dmitry Bivol. I think he’ll only fight GGG if he fights Dmitry Bivol after that. We obviously have a lot of conversations in place about the GGG trilogy, which actually becomes a lot more interesting now because that whole unbeatable image of Canelo has slipped away after last week.”