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Olympic trio relish French test in Belfast

By David Kelly

London 2012 star Michael Conlan is relishing the opportunity of being part of an Odyssey Arena event featuring fellow Olympic stars Paddy Barnes and Katie Taylor on May 5.

Ireland’s call: Jason Quigley, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Joe Ward and Willie McLaughlin, will compete at the OdysseyPRESSEYE

The trio of Olympic medallists will be joined on the Ireland team to face France by European light-heavyweight champion Joe Ward as well as Donegal duo Jason Quigley and Willie McLaughlin.

The Odyssey event, staged by Dublin promotional company Platinum One, will be the second leg of a two-night clash with the French, the first of which will 48 hours earlier in Cork.

Conlan was at ringside recently to witness Carl Frampton’s exciting European title victory over Kiko Martinez as well as brother Jamie’s Commonwealth title eliminator success over Mike Robinson.

“The atmosphere at the Odyssey that night was amazing so it will be great to be boxing there. With myself and Paddy Barnes and Katie Taylor on the bill and Joe Ward, there’s a lot of big names,” said Conlan.

“The last time I boxed in Belfast I lost in the Ulster seniors about three years ago so I’ll have to come back with a win.”

Conlan is expected to face Nordine Oubaali in a re-match of their London 2012 clash which the Belfast man won.

“He’s a tough guy so it will be a hard fight but with the backing of a home crowd I’ll be very confident,” added Conlan who headed off to the Czech Republic today with the Irish squad for a multi-nations tournament.

Fellow Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes is also relishing the chance of a Belfast bout.

“I can’t wait for this because it’s not very often we get this chance to box in belfast and it’s a great stage,” said Barnes.

“What is happening now at the Odyssey is the way forward but I think it’s a bit too late, it should have been done after Beijing. We have the best amateurs in Ireland and some of the best in the world.

“I’m off to the Czech Republic and that will be my first fight since the Olympics so there will be some ring rust but it will be good for me.”

The French team will be confirmed within the next few weeks, but their head coach John Dovi said: “Ireland is a powerful boxing nation. Its success in Beijing followed by the superb performance in London means that to compete we have to bring our best boxers and I believe we can triumph over the course of the two fight nights.

“That is certainly our ambition and after intense training since the start of the year, my boxers will be in peak condition for this match just ahead of the European Championships.”

Olympic women’s gold medallist Taylor is lined up to face Estelle Mossely. “I want to continue to test myself and there is no doubt that this match will see me pitched against someone of real quality in Estelle,” said Taylor.

“We were in the same half of the draw in last year’s World Championships, but she was beaten in the quarter-final so we missed what would have been a semi-final fight.”

The cheapest ticket is £60 with ringside £105, while under-14 tickets are £30.

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