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Feed that nastiness: Michael Conlan urged to push on after stopping Ruiz in 'best night' of his career


Punching clever: Michael Conlan and his team celebrate the ninth-round stoppage over Diego Alberto Ruiz at Falls Park
Punching clever: Michael Conlan and his team celebrate the ninth-round stoppage over Diego Alberto Ruiz at Falls Park
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Michael Conlan was so enveloped by the moment, the Belfast man would have clearly welcomed a time capsule in which to capture it so one day he could drink it in again with his grandchildren.

Sitting with daughter Luisne on his lap for an impromptu press conference in the Falls Bowling Club, the most impressive victory in 12 straight wins was secondary to the experience of saluting the 10,000 who had come out to see him dismantle Diego Alberto Ruiz.

"It's hard to put it into words… I'd say this has been the best night of my sporting career," said Conlan, who cut down Argentinian Ruiz in the ninth round at the purpose-built arena in the Falls Park where he grew up and admitted "getting a few kickings".

The unbridled joy for Conlan and his brother Jamie, who had done more than most to make the night a reality, was a far cry from the PR disaster just five months earlier when his ring entrance caused an uproar.

On this evening, the Conlans had brought boxing to a festival and it ran like clockwork.

"It's not bad for two brothers from 93 Cavendish Street," quipped Conlan.

Adding the WBA inter-continental featherweight title to his WBO version was not simply another trinket for the mantelpiece, it helps broaden the Belfast man's options for a path to the world title. Though, as coach Adam Booth pointed out, "Michael is in a fortunate position that he doesn't have to be dictated to by anyone".

Booth can make such a bold claim simply because Conlan is box office in the ring business. While some polishing of his armour is still required before he shoots for the world, on Saturday night the 27-year-old more than ever opened up that path with the manner in which he gave evidence to his patented ring style.

Whether that opportunity will come at featherweight or - more likely - super-bantamweight, the victory over Ruiz sent out a clear message of 'This is me, now let's see how you're going to beat me'.

The Belfast man is correct when he admits to not being a concussive puncher but he is a smart ring technician and has developed a penchant for brutality to an opponent's ribs.

Evidence of this has been seen in recent bouts but more so than ever when he closed the gap on a retreating Ruiz as Conlan rolled under the counter blows and drew the acceptable 'oohs' and 'aahs' from his passionate fans as they willed him to find the finishing sparkle to a calculated and clinical display.

While he, arguably, could have closed the gap between himself and Ruiz in the quiet opening three rounds, there was no doubting that his work to the body was going to pay off and a warning from referee Michael Alexander was not going to deter him from seeking victory via the downstairs avenue.

Having switched smoothly between southpaw and orthodox, Conlan connected with a sizzling right hook to the torso that seared the face of Ruiz with an electric shock of pain. As he let out a cry on the way down, Conlan allowed himself an abbreviated fist pump of celebration. The job was almost complete. Ruiz walked into a flurry of body blows as his corner man signalled to referee Alexander that he'd seen enough at 1:34 of the ninth round.

"He is now showing things with the 8oz gloves on that he is doing in the gym. His jab was actually working a bit too effectively because the jab was keeping Ruiz at bay but it was also keeping Michael at bay so we had to make some adjustments so he could get closer," said coach Booth.

"He needed a finish like that as well and I genuinely think that's his best performance yet. He needs to feed that nastiness. Yes, he can outbox dudes but this is the professional fight game and you need to be able to hurt them and get rid of them."

Conlan basked in the adulation and put talk of the next step on hold for at least a week as he prepared for a short holiday with wife Shauna, daughter Luisne and son Michael jnr who had also been at ringside for a night he will never forget.

"I'll be honest, all day I was nervous, which was unexpected for me because I've experienced big atmospheres already in my career but I knew that this was going to be different and it dawned on me at different times during the day," said Conlan, who hurt his hand midway through the bout.

"I was probably a bit more serious and I was raring to go from the start and Adam had to calm me down a bit. When I heard the noise as I walked out it was like my debut all over again and I enjoyed the ringwalk and actually sang on my way to the ring, even in the ring as well.

"Once I locked eyes with him I flicked the switch and that was it, I had that steely focus. I probably box better in the gym but that was fighting under real pressure and expectation and that pleased me. Not many people experience that kind of high pressure situation and you either sink or swim."

On this night, Conlan free-styled ever closer to the deep end, with a world title shot very likely to be in place for St Patrick's night in Madison Square Garden.

Belfast Telegraph


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