Michael Conlan looks ahead to another big night in the Garden after title joy
The learning curve for Michael Conlan will continue when he returns to the ring on March 17 at Madison Square Garden on the back of lifting the WBO inter-continental featherweight title at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night.
For all his amateur success, Conlan is still getting to grips with life in the professional ring and while he enjoyed a clear unanimous points verdict over former Commonwealth champion Jason Cunningham over 10 rounds the Belfast man was right to be self-critical.
With every bout, in particular this one, the former world amateur champion is honing himself into a more complete professional and a further step up in class is needed in March.
"I was happy with how it went, I got the victory but it was a big learning fight for me. I feel I started to flow nearer the end and I started pick my shots a lot better. I feel I'm moving in the right direction," said Conlan, who was handed a 97-92, 97-92 and 98-92 decision, despite losing a point for persistent low blows.
"I think I did take a few too many shots and that is something I have to work on and I was a bit annoyed I didn't get the stoppage but overall I'm happy."
Conlan's balance and variety of punching stood out against the more laboured Cunningham, whose southpaw stance did not prove much of a problem for the unbeaten prospect.
Conlan's effective work to the body is also a plus, though a low left hand did allow the Doncaster man to land a few too many right hands. But as so often has been the case with the 26-year-old, the higher grade of opponent usually brings out a more polished display and another three months with coach Adam Booth under his belt will no doubt see him progress further when back in the Garden.
Conlan is looked after by Bob Arum's Top Rank company and their executive Brad Jacobs said: "I am very pleased with how Michael boxed. He needed a good fight like that and the plan is for another step up on March 17 when he goes back to Madison Square Garden.
"That was an awkward opponent and I think Michael will have learned a lot from those 10 rounds. They will stand to him later in his career."
The Belfast man is looking forward to a nice Christmas break before returning to his London training base for what will be a crucial 12-month period, which he believes will see him progress towards being on the cusp of a world title shot.
"I've got my first title which is great and I know I am only going to get better and better. There's always things to work on and I am learning all the time from Adam in the gym," added Conlan, who is also lined up for a big night at Falls Park in the summer with another fight in between, probably Stateside.
Meanwhile, Conlan's close friend Paddy Barnes did not box on the bill due to many of the earlier fights going the distance.
"I still got paid so that's the main thing," said Barnes who is expected to be out again by March.
The Belfast man was denied world title glory in the summer when stopped by Cristofer Rosales, who on Saturday night in London lost his WBC flyweight title to England's Charlie Edwards.