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Michael Conlan right at home as the centre of attention

 

By David Kelly

Even in defeat Michael Conlan has always taken the headlines.

Long before the infamous loss to Vladimir Nikitin at the 2016 Olympics the Belfast man suffered a robbery in the Ulster Hall that stung so hard it propelled him to Irish glory a few weeks later.

Declan Milligan was the beneficiary on that evening, given a points victory over teenager Conlan in their Ulster senior final.

Seven years on and he is back fighting in Belfast as a professional against Brazilian Adeilson dos Santos with great expectations that would suffocate the best intentions of lesser men.

Most fighters in their eighth bout would be playing a relatively small part on an undercard but Conlan is the centre of attention, the main event with a former world title challenger in Belfast's SSE Arena tomorrow night.

Prior to this, he has enjoyed the build-up to one-sided bouts in New York, Chicago and Brisbane, but admits that being at home in Belfast has brought about its own unique experience.

"This has been the best fight week I've ever had. I'm so chilled even with the great buzz about the place. I can go home and relax in my own sofa and chill out, I'm just so laid back and yet at the same time I feel the anticipation of the people," said Conlan.

"I don't know if it will bring out the best in me so far but it will bring out a better Michael Conlan than what you've seen so far.

"I have always said that the better the opponent the better I fight. My camp has been great and the way I have been performing in sparring has been fantastic.

"I have to go in and be destructive. I've boxed on big stages and I know what to expect but then again it's going to be different because it's my homecoming.

"I just have to strip everything away and focus on the fact that it's me in the ring against another fighter and I have a job to do.

"It's important to show that you take out or do a job in style against someone of this calibre.

"I know a lot of people will feel that I'm a big favourite and there is a lot of expectation but this guy has to be respected as a puncher, he's fought for a world title and this is only my eighth fight."

The biggest name on the Brazilian's record is former WBO world champion Jesse Magdaleno, who stopped him in two rounds. Having been in the same LA camp for a year Conlan had some up close and personal work with Magdaleno.

"I was Magdaleno's sparring partner for that fight with Dos Santos and he actually got injured leading up to it but still got the job done. I know what this guy is like and how dangerous he is. I know when I get in there I'm in with a good puncher who could cause problems.

"This is a step up for me. I have a serious test in front of me and I need to be switched on."

An impressive victory in this eight rounder could well lead to another significant step up in class and Conlan admitted he has an eye on a big fight back in Belfast next summer.

"Fighting for a world title at Windsor Park or Casement Park would be amazing," added Conlan.

"We were actually asked to box at Falls Park but it didn't work out but maybe it could happen next year because they are building a purpose-built arena. Fighting in Falls Park would like me going back to my school days fighting there."

The immediate future is all about handling expectations.

Belfast Telegraph

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