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Michael Conlan wants Belfast to be part of his journey to top

By Steve Wellings

Michael Conlan is ready to take the boxing world by storm and the super-bantamweight star wants Belfast to come along for the ride. Laying out his plans alongside manager Matthew Macklin and promoter Todd du Boef, Conlan cut a relaxed and confident figure at his Titanic Quarter press conference yesterday.

"Belfast is going to be a hot spot. I want the Belfast public and the Irish public to be part of my journey," Conlan affirmed.

"I've always said being from west Belfast, Casement Park is my home stadium and it's the place I wanted to fight. With the new plans, there are going to be a lot of seats and it's looking like a mini Aviva Stadium. It's so close to home and to fight there would be special."

When Conlan decided to turn professional, the biggest names in the sport came knocking. However, the chance to sign with industry veteran Bob Arum, who had a hand in the careers of Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya, was just too good to turn down.

"I was in deep talks with Frank Warren and Frank wasn't happy when I turned him back but Matthew Macklin knows who the best promoters are so I listened to his opinions and Top Rank was the best choice.

"Going to America is a big change and I want 100 per cent confidence in the team around me. Rio is in the past and ancient history. This wasn't a difficult decision but it was a big decision. I'm heading out to Los Angeles to train with Manny Robles to see if I gel with him as a coach."

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Bob Arum's step-son Du Boef, the president of Top Rank boxing, has been instrumental in establishing crossover pay-per-view stars from many different backgrounds. He expects Conlan to play a key role in his company's future exploits.

"We look for two things in a fighter: ability and marketability, and he has both. This move is an important part of a revival for American boxing. It's going to be a marathon not a sprint but the publicity after the Olympics blew me away," said Du Boef.

Macklin runs the MGM Marbella gym and has been busy snapping up talented fighters. Having first clocked Conlan's skills at the London Olympics, the former World title challenger is eager to pass on the experience gained during his own 15-year career.

"Michael's nearly 25 now and had an extensive amateur career so he just needs to make a few adjustments. It's about sitting down on the shots a bit more and working out the pace of a fight," he said.

"Originally they wanted Michael to fight on the November 5 Manny Pacquiao undercard but he hadn't had a rest for four years and he wanted to work things out first. Madison Square Garden will be sold out and from day one he'll be a star."

After the high-profile debut on March 17, Macklin wants six fights in the first year, including a bout in Belfast.

"I don't think he'll fight for a World title within two years but it won't take five. Top Rank take on top amateurs and bring them along to World titles. There's an art to building fighters," he said.

"Mick can not only become a World champion but dominate, defend and unify titles."

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