IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez and Michael Conlan on collision course for Belfast battle

Michael Conlan will challenge IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez in Belfast this summer
Michael Conlan will challenge IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez in Belfast this summer

IBF featherweight champion Luis Alberto Lopez is in Michael Conlan’s sights and the 29-year-old Mexican is being lined up to defend his title in Belfast this summer.

Negotiations are ongoing and Jamie Conlan, Head of Conlan Boxing, says his brother’s second world title challenge is likely to take place on home soil in May (at the SSE Arena) or June (possibly in Falls Park).

“We’re in negotiations,” Conlan confirmed.

“There are a lot of moving parts but Lopez and Michael is the fight that we’re working towards and we’re close to making and it’s looking more than likely that Belfast will be the place for the fight.”

Lopez beat former Carl Frampton dance-partner Josh Warrington in Leeds to win the IBF belt on December 12 but he picked up eye and hand injuries in the process. Both are taking time to heal and ‘El Venado’ is unlikely to be ready to fight on St Patrick’s Day.

Lopez is 27-2 and was on a three-fight knockout run (including a stoppage win against Isaac Lowe) before he went into Warrington’s backyard and took his title.

“He is a fantastic world champion,” said Jamie.

“He’s a tough night’s work. He is awkward, hard to prepare for, unorthodox, he throws punches from range and he’s heavy-handed from the first bell to the last. He starts really fast and it’s a dangerous fight.

“Stylistically for Michael it’s a really tough fight but there are no easy fights for titles. Obviously all the talk last year after Michael and Leigh Wood was a rematch but it never materialised and this is the route that has been presented to us now.”

Losing to Wood was of course a setback for Michael Conlan but he is almost certainly better equipped to challenge for a world title 12 months on. His last two performances, against Miguel Marriaga and, in December, Karim Guerfi, have been emphatic wins.

“Michael learned a lot from the Wood fight, both in the ring and outside the ring,” said Jamie.

“I think he’s shown that in the two fights since in how he’s dealt with hurting someone early and getting them out of there (Guerfi) and the way he dealt with understanding distance against a big power-puncher like Marriaga.

“He has learned a lot and I think learning that was probably the final piece of the puzzle to becoming a world champion. He learned it the hard way in the Wood fight but it’s all behind him now and it’ll do him the world of good coming into this world title fight.”

PODY McCrory will return to super-middleweight against Ralfs Vilcans as the headline act at the SSE Arena on St Patrick’s Day.

The Irish News understands that McCrory, who took the boxing world by storm when he stopped Leon Bunn in Germany to win the IBO light-heavyweight title late last year, will drop back down from 175lbs to 168lbs to take on the unbeaten Latvian (14-0).

With Michael Conlan-Miguel Lopez looking set for a summer date, McCrory is next in line to take top billing and Jamie Conlan expects ‘The Hammer’ to put on a show to delight fight fans. Tyrone McKenna and Fearghus Quinn are likely to feature on the undercard.

OLEKSANDR Usyk has been offered a heavyweight world title unification fight with Tyson Fury on March 4 according to Fury’s promoter Frank Warren.

“We’ve sent them a draft contract; that’s where we’re at,” said Warren.

“It’s got to be sorted out very, very quickly now because the time is against us.”

The fight is likely to take place in the Middle East because, according to Warren: “That’s where the most amount of loot comes from”.

He added: “Nothing’s in place from anywhere outside the UK. Well, it makes sense for the Usyk versus Fury fight to take place in Saudi Arabia if that’s where the most amount of the loot comes from.

“Why stage the fight in the UK if it can’t match the boatloads of cash that Saudi Arabia offers? We just want to get it on in March and that’ll set them up for another big fight in the autumn.”

GERVONTA ‘Tank’ Davis is already looking ahead to fighting Ryan Garcia in April after he stopped Hector Luis Garcia last Saturday night.

Davis moved to 28-0 with a ninth round knockout win and says Ryan Garcia’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya is already thinking about the money they’re going to scoop up for the April mega-fight on Showtime PPV & DAZN.

“We got to do it again in April,” said Davis

“He [Hector Garcia] wasn’t tough. I didn’t want to make a mistake, and he catch me. So I stayed cautious throughout the fight. I didn’t want to get caught hearing stuff going on outside of the ring, so I stepped back.

“My thing was him trying to catch me with a shot and by throwing double shots. So, I was angling, trying to throw hard every time.”

LIAM Smith argues that it’s Chris Eubank junior’s famous name, his “demeanour and his attitude”, not his skill as a fighter, that has made him a star in British boxing.

In the latest skirmish in the war of words ahead of their battle on January 21, Smith fired a withering broadside at ‘junior’.

“Because of the name, his second name, because of his demeanour and his attitude, he's made himself a big name in British boxing,” said Smith.

“It’s a high profile fight. Do I think he's a better fighter than Jaime Munguia? No, so I don't think he's the second best fighter I've fought either. But time will tell.

“He's somehow developed himself a big name in British boxing. The name he is, the money he's made in boxing is crazy because I think he's won a British title.

“He's never won a world title and he's made stupid money out of boxing and he's a big name. So they've obviously done something right. But I think the name has helped that massively.”

In his last three fights, ‘Beefy’ has beaten Anthony Fowler, Jesse Vargas (at Madison Square Garden) and dismantled Hassan Mwakinyo in his native Liverpool last time out. He says Eubank has managed the business side of boxing perfectly.

“He's not my cup of tea but if I didn't think that of him I'd be thinking you know what, good on you mate,” he said.

“You've played the game perfectly. But in the bigger picture, some of the pros who have had top careers over the years who haven't earned half the money, that's what I was saying with that.

“There's been world champions, who have walked out of boxing without a penny and not because they blew the money but because maybe it wasn't there then and they weren't a big name but they were still world champions.”