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Michael Conlan vows to prove doubters wrong against Ionut Baluta as 'Irish Slayer' stands in way of world title chances

Michael vows to prove point and take stride towards world title


Facing off: Michael Conlan and Ionut Baluta get up close and personal ahead of their super-bantamweight clash

Facing off: Michael Conlan and Ionut Baluta get up close and personal ahead of their super-bantamweight clash

Facing off: Michael Conlan and Ionut Baluta get up close and personal ahead of their super-bantamweight clash

Michael Conlan says he likes the fact that some are doubting his ability to reach the top - or even handling the threat of Romanian Ionut Baluta.

This evening Conlan finally returns to the ring in London for the first time since August, due largely to a freak training injury in December. The Belfast man knows a plan is in place for him to fight for the world super-bantamweight title by the end of the year and so victory over Baluta is critical.

The Romanian is on a roll, with victories over former world champion TJ Doheny and Olympian David Oliver Joyce leading to him calling himself 'The Irish Slayer'. Conlan enters the ring as a super-bantamweight for the first time since his debut in 2017 with an air of someone eager to make a point.

"I've seen a few people questioning if I can do what I've said I can in this business and also whether or not I can really be a force at super-bantamweight - even if I'm ready for this guy. That's good, that only motivates me more," said Conlan.

"So, I suppose this fight will answer a few questions and it will play a big part in finding out if I am a super-bantamweight. All I can say is that this is the easiest I've made weight and I know I'm a super-bantamweight.

"It's been funny because in the gym I've found that the lighter I am, the harder I've been punching. That has made me very excited about what I can do in this fight and the power I can show.

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"Throughout camp I was ticking off the boxes so I know I'm ready for a big performance. This is the perfect fight for me at the right time.

"Before my injury, my performance against Sofiane Takoucht was my best as a professional and I believe I am now continuing on from that. I have had injuries, we have had a pandemic, but it is what it is. I was devastated when I did my ankle, but it happened for a reason and now I am back, fully recovered and looking forward to Baluta.

"I really think that this performance will make people sit up and take notice and realise what I've got. There's a bit of an edge to this fight which I like because he believes he is going to get a hat-trick against Irish fighters. But I feel very strong, I feel an explosiveness."

Conlan's world title aspirations are surrounding the WBO title held by Stephen Fulton, though significantly the American has been pencilled in for an August date with the winner of the WBC title fight between Luis Nery and Brandon Figueroa next month.

While that could be seen as an obstacle to his shot at Fulton, Conlan is unconcerned.

"My plans have not changed. It doesn't matter to me if Fulton or Nery holds the belt because I know that I will beat either of them," added Conlan.

"I expect to have another fight in August myself because I need to keep busy so we'll see how things are after that.

"At the moment I just have to stay focused on this fight. Whether I am able to use my brain to win this fight or if I have to go into the trenches, I'll be ready.

"In my last fight I was a bit more spiteful and the way I have been sparring I know I'm going to be even more spiteful in this fight."

The bout is live on BT Sport and we'll also have updates on our Belfast Telegraph live blog.

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