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I'm proud to represent everyone at home on world stage: Conlan


By David Kelly

Few fighters naturally embrace the spotlight more than Michael Conlan and with a TV crew around almost every time he works out at his base in LA, it is just as well - but he admits his heart will always be at home.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Conlan will bid to chalk up a fourth successive professional victory when he takes on fellow unbeaten fighter Kenny Guzman at the Convention Centre in Tuscon, Arizona. Once more he will have a prominent role, this time backing up exciting WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez.

A decorated amateur, including World, European and Commonwealth gold, Conlan has already caught the imagination of the public Stateside with the power of prestigious promotional company Top Rank driving him forward.

The expectation surrounding his potential could hardly be higher and he is relishing the chance to return home for a big night at the SSE Arena.

"I was home for a bit in the summer and it was great. It was tough to leave but I have to be here in LA to be successful, this is my business. But I stay in touch with everything back home, I even have a box for the TV that gets me the six o'clock UTV news so I watch that every morning before I go to training," said Conlan.

"The more I'm away from home, the more proud I am of being from Belfast. I've people writing to me, identifying with me because they have had to travel to make a better life for themselves. There was one fella working in Canada who went to school with me and he made sure he was at my debut on St Patrick's night.

"That's very humbling... I feel I'm representing everyone from Belfast. I was proud of winning the World amateur gold for Ireland and I was so proud of winning gold at the Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland. That was a Games, it's like a mini Olympics and the viewing figures for the Games are huge.

"Being back home in the summer, I felt everybody behind me and that's the way I want it to be and when I come back to fight I want it to be a big event."

Conlan had hoped to be boxing in Belfast before Christmas but assuming all goes well this weekend, he expects to be out again in the States within a couple of months.

So, it is now expected that a homecoming will happen next May or June.

Making the switch to Los Angeles to be based with highly respected coach Manny Robles was the move he believes had to be made and the 25-year-old insists he has already reaped the benefit, working alongside world-class operators such as Valdez and Jo Jo Diaz, who just fought on the supporting bill to Gennady Golovkin's showdown with Canelo Alvarez.

"I feel I've improved every day I've been out here. I had to go away to become a professional fighter. I look at some of the guys who were on Team GB and they have gone pro but still have an amateur style," added Conlan, who will be moving up to featherweight for the first time against Guzman.

"In America, everything is about being smart in the ring, sitting down on your punches, being smart defensively as well as offensively. I've changed a lot and I'm working on a lot... I'll never be the finished article."

As for his latest bout, Conlan is once more eager to impress.

He added: "I want to do everyone back home proud and show how I'm developing as a pro. I'm also looking forward to having good support. I didn't think there would be that many Irish in Tuscon but then I got a message telling me the Arizona Irish will be out in force, which sounds good to me."

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