Promoter Bob Arum says that Michael Conlan is just one fight away from shooting for world glory - in front of his vociferous support in the United States.
Conlan will box on May 1 in London as the co-main event on a BT Sport-televised show featuring the IBF world flyweight title fight between champion Moruti Mthalane and Londoner Sunny Edwards, which will also be screened in America.
Belfast man Conlan is returning to the ring after a freak injury in the gym ruled him out of a fight with former world champion Isaac Dogboe at the end of 2020. He will now face Romanian Ionut Baluta, who is ranked nine by the WBO, while Conlan is the No.1 contender for a shot at WBO super-bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton.
Baluta's career has taken off over the past 12 months with victories over former world champion TJ Doheny and last September he stopped another Irishman, David Oliver Joyce.
Promoter Arum said: "Mick will fight at the start of May and then the plan will be to move for the world title shot. We could put that on in Madison Square Garden and he would fill it up.
"I'm very encouraged that the pandemic will be abated in the States because we are now looking that by the end of May there will be enough vaccines to inoculate all of the population. So, by June we can start doing events with full capacity."
Arum's optimism is bolstered by the recent announcement that in May, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will defend his world super-middleweight title against Billy Joe Saunders in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium with a big crowd expected to attend the event.
Conlan's brother and manager Jamie believes victory for Michael against Baluta would cement his position as the mandatory challenger to champion Fulton, though he wouldn't rule out another fight before fighting for the title.
"We're looking at towards the end of the year for the fight with Fulton so if everything goes to plan against Baluta we are still holding out some hope of another fight in August in Belfast but obviously we know at the moment that is unlikely. But the bigger picture is dealing with Baluta and then we are firmly in the position to face Fulton," said Jamie.
"Baluta is gunning for a hat-trick over Irish fighters and we know that at this stage of Michael's career he is going to be a good test. Baluta showed how dangerous he is with the wins over Doheny and David Oliver Joyce so it's just the fight Michael needs ahead of a world title shot."