Michael Conlan targets Brazilian fighter for Belfast homecoming bout
Boxing sensation Michael Conlan is promising to show the Northern Ireland sports fans just why there is so much hyperbole surrounding his career when he steps onto the SSE Arena stage on June 30 for his homecoming.
On the back of an incredibly successful amateur career winning World, European and Commonwealth gold as well as Olympic bronze, Conlan was snapped up by the world's leading promoter Bob Arum, whose company Top Rank are co-promoting next month's show along with Frank Warren.
Already Conlan has made a major mark in the States with his swashbuckling style and natural charisma but it is on home turf that he truly wants to be seen as a ring master.
"I want to leave a legacy behind and when you talk about legacy that means being recognised by your home fans as a great fighter.
"I have a long way to go but my long-term goal is to win world titles at featherweight, super-feather and lightweight," said Conlan yesterday.
"I want to go out and put on a show so people will see that I am the real deal. I already have a good fan base but coming back to Belfast for this fight is going to see it grow even more. I also want to give something back to the fans who have travelled to the States to watch me.
"To have the support of the people of Belfast is so important to me and that's why I had it in my contract that I had to have a fight at home at least once every 12 months."
It is understood that dangerous Brazilian Adeilson Dos Santos, who fought for the World super-bantamweight title last year, is the main target for Conlan with an inter-continental title expected to be on the line.
Dos Santos has fought 23 professional bouts, winning 19. Among the four losses is that World title shot, when he was beaten by KO by Jessie Magdaleno, who has previously taken the WBO belt from Nonito Donaire.
Before that fight, the Belfast man has to deal with Spaniard Ibon Larrinaga at Madison Square Garden on May 12 as part of the undercard to the world lightweight title clash between Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko.
"It would be easy to take my eye off the ball and look past Larrinaga to the Belfast bill but I won't be doing that. I know he's a step up for me and I'll have to be on my game," added Conlan.
"I actually feel that I can show some new things in this fight because of the way I have been working in the gym with my coach Adam Booth.
"It may not all come out in this fight but I know that I'm making good progress.
"I can feel that things that I didn't even think would work for me are working very easily.
"In the past as an amateur I made the mistake of just expecting to win, overlooking guys and I paid the price so I have learned from that and I won't allow that to happen."
One challenge that has come to the front of his mind is a re-match with Russian Vladimir Nikitin, who was awarded that highly controversial decision over the Belfast man at the Rio Olympics. Nikitin recently turned professional and already the bout is tentatively in the works for next year.
"It's funny, I received an Instagram message from him and when I translated it, he said 'I'm your friend' which I didn't know how to take. I've never really said anything bad about him… but that is a fight I really want. I want that win and I'd love that fight in Belfast because it would really grab the attention of people," said Conlan.
"Towards the end of the year I would hope to step up with one or two more fights and next year I'll hopefully get the rematch with the Russian and then hopefully a World title after that."
The supporting bill seems to be filled with bad blood as Belfast's unbeaten Tyrone McKenna has been matched with hard hitting Dubliner Phil Sutcliffe Jnr, while there is an all-Dublin affair between Jono Carroll and Declan Geraghty. The show will also see Paddy Gallagher in an exciting clash with former World title challenger Gary Corcoran.
Gallagher will be coming into the fight on the back of a controversial loss at the weekend in the States but insisted he wanted to go straight back into another tough bout.
"To be honest I'm still that jet lagged that I can't remember even agreeing to the fight," joked Gallagher, who is keen to seal himself a British or Commonwealth welterweight title shot.
"I said to my team that I wanted to be fighting someone in the top five in Britain and they came back with Corcoran and right away I said 'yes'.
"These are the type of fights that I want to be in and I can't wait for it. I'm never in boring fights and Corcoran always comes to have a fight so it's going to be great for the fans."
McKenna and Sutcliffe demonstrated genuine animosity ahead of their 10-rounder.
Belfast man McKenna recently enjoyed a points win over Anthony Upton on the undercard to Carl Frampton's victory over Nonito Donaire. Sutcliffe dismissed that, suggesting: "He only deserved a draw at best."
"Although I only boxed less than two weeks ago, when the offer came to face Sutcliffe I wasn't going to turn it down," said McKenna. "He's done a lot of talking so now we'll see what happens when he has to back it up."
There will also be a battle of unbeaten boxers when Tyrone McCullagh clashes with Scotland's Joe Ham for the British Boxing Board of Control's Celtic super-bantamweight title.
"On paper it looks like a good close fight but on the night I know that I'm going to knock him out within six rounds," said McCullagh.