Belfast Telegraph

Michael Conlan ready to follow in footsteps of legends in Madison Square Garden

By Steven Beacom

Michael Conlan has the talent and the charisma. He also has legendary boxing promoters Top Rank in his corner and a mouthwatering professional debut in New York's iconic Madison Square Garden on St Patrick's Day to savour.

No wonder the 25-year-old is excited about the new chapter about to unfold in his life.

His extraordinary amateur career is over. Conlan has turned the page on the Olympic bronze medal at London 2012, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold, a wonderful World Championship triumph in 2015 at bantamweight and the controversy in Rio in August when a staggering judging decision saw him eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the 2016 Olympics.

It's all about the pro game now.

And come January when he leaves Belfast behind and jets out to live in Los Angeles with his fiancee Shauna and beautiful young daughter Luisne, the target is to be fighting for a world title in the next two years.

With Conlan anything is possible.

"Two to three years to be world champion is in my head. Even at the end of year two personally I would like to be ready for a world title." says Conlan, the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.

"From March to March in my first year as a professional the plan is to have between six and eight fights, so I'll be busy. When I'm active that's when I feel good, so that will suit me."

Conlan recently returned home from America where he enjoyed a short training stint in the Rock Gym in Los Angeles with the renowned Manny Robles.

The chemistry was instant, much like the rapport he immediately struck up with Top Rank, who have set Conlan up with an eagerly awaited contest on March 17 in the city that never sleeps.

"My debut couldn't have worked out any better," said Conlan.

"To be fighting at Madison Square Garden at any time in your career is special, but to be fighting there on St Patrick's Day in New York, which is probably the best place in the world to be in on St Patrick's Day, is unbelievable.

"It'll also be five years to the day since my manager Matt Macklin fought Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden. It's a great way to start my pro career."

The Belfast man adds: "I was over the moon to sign with Top Rank. Being with them has boosted my profile a lot more.

"They are the best team in boxing. I know I'm with a team that can take me all the way.

"Everyone in America is talking about me already so it is all good. I'm delighted to be in with a team that has Manny Pacquiao and other brilliant fighters. They've had Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya and all the greats. They even had Muhammad Ali at one stage.

"When I was over in America training went really well. I really, really enjoyed working with Manny Robles. He is a fantastic coach. I gelled straight away with him. Normally with me it takes a few days or weeks, but the first day I clicked with him personally and technically as well which was very pleasing."

Asked if he will change from the style that brought him so much success in amateur boxing, Conlan said: "I wouldn't say I would be totally changing my style because that is what got me to where I am but I'll make a few adjustments.

"I'll be careful to take my time and not to always fight at a really high pace, which I usually do. There will be small things like that. I definitely see myself knocking out a lot more people."

Bar attending the weddings of family and friends next July and October, and coming home for Christmas, Conlan does not envisage spending too much time in Northern Ireland in 2017. He will be too busy on a journey that he believes will lead him to the very top of his profession.

Admitting that he will miss home at times, he is overjoyed that Shauna and little Luisne will be with him in LA for the adventure of a lifetime.

"We are heading over in January to move over there full time, me, Shauna and the baby. We'll stay in Marina del Rey in LA which is an amazing city," says Conlan, a class act in and out of the ring.

"I think if we were doing it any other way it would be really hard. The fact that Shauna and Luisne are coming over will make things a lot easier.

"The plan is to base ourselves there for the next two years. If we like it we could stay out there but more than likely we will come home because I am a home bird.

"After I become world champion I won't be fighting as regularly and I won't need to be out in America as much. I'll go out for training camps. That is the plan in my head."

It has been another eventful year for Conlan. There are no regrets and a genuine belief that the best is still to come.

"When I look back at 2016 I will see it as the year I turned professional," he says.

"Everything else will be forgotten and put to the back of my head because nothing else matters now.

"What happened at the Olympics may have left a dirty taste in my mouth but there is nothing I can do to change that.

"Thinking about it now things couldn't have worked out better had I won gold in Rio.

"I'm really looking forward to 2017 and the new challenges it will bring."

Belfast Telegraph


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