| 9°C Belfast

Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan set to feature in Belfast fight night to speed boxing's return


Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan

Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan

Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan

Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan on the same bill in a Belfast hotel behind closed doors this summer may sound preposterous but that's the audacious plan currently being worked on to defy the impact of the coronavirus.

Jamie Conlan, Vice-President of MTK Global, has revealed that he already has a hotel lined up for boxing to make a return to Belfast in July, featuring all-Irish battles with no title bouts - in line with British Boxing Board of Control regulations - while a TV studio is also a viable option. Furthermore, he is working on the possibility of bills in London, Glasgow and in the north of England.

With brother Michael and former world champion Frampton having to bide their time for major fights, when the ban on mass gatherings is lifted Stateside and in the UK, Jamie - in conjunction with Bob Arum's promotional company Top Rank - is eager to keep the Belfast stars active.

The British Boxing Board of Control have said that boxing would be able to return under strict guidelines, stipulating that shows would have a maximum of five fights and that "Boxers, referees and trainers/seconds will all be required to take a Covid-19 test 48 hours prior to the event and must subsequently isolate until hearing a result".

Conlan has been in regular contact with the Board, as have promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, and the Belfast man says he has already spoken to all MTK boxers about a possible return to action this summer.

While initially an event in Belfast would only feature fighters from north and south of the border, the chance to give Frampton and Conlan a return to the ring against overseas opposition would then become a priority.

"We could see Michael and Carl on the same bill in Belfast in August or September. I've spoken about this with Top Rank and I know that Bob Arum would like to see the two guys on a card in Las Vegas behind closed doors but I believe it would make more sense in Belfast at this current time," said Conlan.

"It would mean flying in opponents, probably from America, and putting them up in a hotel for six to eight weeks so they would have the training they needed and the testing could be done in line with the Board's regulations so they would be ready to fight.

"You would never have thought that you would see Carl and Michael on the same card in Belfast but the coronavirus has made that a real possibility.

"The way things are working out, it's the big time fighters who are going to be hit the hardest at the start of boxing returning because we can't have title fights. In fairness to Carl and Michael, when it comes to world title fights they should really have fans in the arena.

"But they need to stay active, so that's why we're working on getting them out in non-title fights.

"We're fortunate because we have the backing of ESPN+ to broadcast the bills and we are in talks with UK broadcasters about screening the shows."

Frampton had been lined up to face WBO world super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring in Belfast next month but it now seems increasingly likely that the fight will not take place until 2021, with Windsor Park next summer a real possibility. Herring has already stated that he is seeking a fight in between due to the delay caused by the pandemic.

Two weeks ago, a show was held in Nicaragua with social distancing regulations in place and Conlan has been in contact with the promoter of the show, where there was temperature testing and the spraying of disinfectant.

The BBBofC have also stated that "The inside of the ring will be the first time boxers are allowed to remove their PPE, whilst referees and cornermen keep theirs on".

Conlan added: "We're finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel for boxing. I've been in touch with managers from down south and there's a realisation that we need to work together for the good of the boxers.

"The plan is for a bill in July with five all-Irish fights. With so little live sport on, this will be a great opportunity for fighters to raise their profile dramatically. Even at this dark time, they will have the chance to raise their earning potential by being in exciting fights.

"I'm hoping that the likes of Paddy Gallagher, Paddy McCrory, Steven Donnelly, Sean Duffy and James McGivern, who is eager to make his debut, will all be in the mix for the first show back in Belfast."

Belfast Telegraph