Sport

"For first time in a long time I’m looking forward to fighting..." Born-again Michael Conlan ready for Gill war * Katie Taylor coach Ross: "It was great shutting the doubters up"

"It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been looking forward to the fight," says Michael Conlan  Picture: Mark Mead
"It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been looking forward to the fight," says Michael Conlan Picture: Mark Mead "It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been looking forward to the fight," says Michael Conlan Picture: Mark Mead

THE switch to “genius” coach Pedro Diaz has breathed new life into Michael Conlan’s career and the two-time world title challenger says he’s looking forward to fighting for the first time in years.

Conlan hooked-up with Diaz in September and the Miami-based Cuban boxing guru has injected momentum into a career that was at the crossroads when the Belfast featherweight lost a world title challenge to Luis Lopez in May.

That stoppage loss was Conlan’s last fight with Adam Booth and the former World Amateur Champion says switching to Diaz was a smart move for him and he intends to prove that on Saturday night.

“It was a smart and good move for me,” he said.

“Working with Pedro has been fantastic, he’s a very smart coach, a very experienced coach who has been through the lot – 21 Olympic champions, 18 world champions…

“He’s got me back to being me. He’s not teaching me new things, not trying to change what I do but using the best assets I have which are my legs, my skill and everything like that. It’s not about trying to have a fight all the time, it’s using my boxing ability and it’s been great.

“Pedro is smart and he’s watched an awful lot of me – amateur fights, professional fights… He has a full run-down of who I am.

“After every week of training we review the week, we go over everything and he’ll show me reasons why this happened or that happened. Everything is mathematical, he’s a genius.

“I feel fantastic and excited about Saturday. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been looking forward to the fight rather than looking forward to it being over and done with an having the win. I’m looking forward to actually fighting and putting on a show.

Irish boxing was already reeling when Conlan lost to Lopez. The week before Katie Taylor had been beaten by Chantelle Cameron in Dublin but Taylor’s brilliant comeback win will add a little more inspiration for Conlan to do the same at the SSE Arena on Saturday night.

“Katie was inspirational,” he said.

“People wrote her off. I thought she was crazy taking the rematch but I said: ‘I don’t know how she wins but I believe she will win’. She went back to using her skillset, her boxing ability – she was faster and she used her legs, she didn’t try to just fight the whole time. She used her skills and it was perfect, I’m really happy for her.”

Standing in his way on Saturday night is a man he knows well. He has sparred with Gill in the past and, although Gill’s celebration when Conlan was knocked out by his friend Leigh Wood got under his skin, Conlan insists he’s “in there do a job” on Saturday night.

“I know all about Jordan Gill, I’ve sparred him loads,” he said.

“I know he’s a good fighter, he’s skilful and he has good abilities. If you’re not on your game he can take you out.

“When he’s backed into a corner he can start to lash out, so you’ve got to be smart about how you go about things. It could be a complete tactical performance from me where I don’t get hit and win on points quite easily, or I could have a destructive performance where I don’t get hit but I still take him out really well. Either way, it’s going to be a great night.”

SOME may have doubted her after her summer loss to Chantelle Cameron, but Katie Taylor kept faith in herself and in her coach Ross Enamait.

Her first ever defeat as a pro was a hammerblow but Taylor sucked it up and worked even harder alongside the studious American at their training camp in Connecticut, USA. The results of that mindset were spectacular as the Bray native produced arguably a career-best performance to turn the tables on Cameron at the 3Arena on Saturday night.

Many of the rounds were close but Taylor was the clear-cut winner on points over 10 action-packed rounds.

It was redemption for Taylor and also for Enamait. Doubts can creep into a fighters’ mind after a loss and splits with the trainer are not uncommon but Taylor kept the faith and it paid dividends in the Cameron rematch.  

"I know there were a lot of doubters, so it was great shutting people like that up and doing what we do,” he said.

“She's always motivated. Katie's beat girls with a torn calf, she's had things that have happened that she's had to work around so her motivation never wavered and she always works hard.

“She's had some situations in her career where no-one knew about it and she wasn't 100 per cent and she still went in there and busted her ass. She was healthier and was able to train properly and that's the result.”

Over 10 two-minute rounds there isn’t much time to correct mistakes if the gameplan isn’t working in the first couple of rounds. A slow start cost Taylor in the first fight but from the opening bell last Saturday night she went about her business with an assured ferocity. Her footwork was sharp and her punches were sharper and she refused to yield the initiative to Cameron.

“The gameplan was one round at a time,” said Enamait.

“You can make a gameplan but you have to see what's in front of you and I know that a big part of it was trying to shut down Cameron's jab because when you take her jab away she can't do a whole lot, she needs to get momentum off the lead hand and if you sit still with her then she's going to bang.

"So early on I thought we moved really well and countered her jab and shut it down but, like I said, it's one round at a time.”