Conlan and Barnes target classy wins as lift-off for crucial year
Jamie Conlan knows all about playing the long game in boxing and is confident it will pay off in 2017 just as younger brother Michael makes his way into the sport.
Tonight at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, 30-year-old Conlan is the headline act for the first time in Belfast but due to two opponents pulling out he is unable to make a first defence of his Commonwealth super-flyweight title.
Nevertheless he meets Hungarian David Koos over eight rounds, a stepping stone to the year in which he believes many special moments will come his way, including a World title shot.
Throughout his career Conlan has had to endure periods of inactivity, even times when he thought about leaving boxing behind, so he is adamant that another twist such as this will not deflect his sights from the bigger goal.
"I was really deflated at the start of the week when the guy from Tanzania pulled out but I have to focus on this job now, I can't allow anything to stand in the way of my next fight which is being talked about as a WBO World title eliminator and that could be in February back in Belfast," said Conlan.
"Even more exciting for me is the possibility of me topping a bill later in the year before the summer with my brother Michael on the same card.
"That would be a dream come true, for the two of us to have our names up there in lights in Belfast.
"I could have had a place on the show in New York where Michael is making his debut but I turned it down because I just want that to be totally about Michael and he'll always be my younger brother and I want to be there that week for him, helping him get ready for what's going to be a huge night.
"The positive thing for me at this time is that I am headlining in Belfast," he added.
"Of course I wanted it to be a much bigger fight and that was the plan.
"I wanted it to be a fight that people would go home and say to their kids, 'you should have seen that fight last night' but this is professional boxing and it sometimes doesn't go the way you want it to and you have to deal with that.
"But the time is coming for me to headline in a big fight, Frank Warren has made that clear.
"They know that boxing in Belfast is big and the people will come out for good fights and because they know boxing they'll tell you if it's a bad fight and they won't come out."
Tonight's show features two-time Olympic medalist Paddy Barnes making his debut against Stefan Slachev in a six rounder as well as Marc McCullough in a WBO inter-continental featherweight title fight with Mexican Luis Lugo.
The rest of the card is packed with Irish fighters seeking to prove they can one day push on to major title fights, including Belfast men Tyrone McKenna, Steven Ward and Clonmel heavyweight Con Sheehan who has recently linked up with Peter Fury.
He said: "Carl Frampton created an amazing buzz in Belfast, he brought new fans to the sport and now there's real potential here for a new wave of boxers to build on that.
"Hopefully I can be the flagship fighter for that," stated Conlan.
"This business is like snakes and ladders.
"You work so hard to put yourself up the ladder, in a good position and then one slip can send you right back down again."
He added: "I can't afford anything to go wrong against this guy. I have to get the job done and then look ahead to a big year."