Michael Conlan believes he will one day look back and thank the Covid-19 lockdown for giving him the edge needed to fulfil all his sporting ambitions.
Conlan returns to the ring on August 15 in a behind-closed-doors show at the BT Studios against former world featherweight title challenger Sofiane Takoucht. But while a 9st world title shot has been the focus for some time, the unbeaten Belfast man has revealed that his quest to become a three-weight champion will start at super-bantamweight.
"I had said at the start of my career that I wanted to be a three-weight world champion and that seemed to go off the radar but during this lockdown I've got a passion and hunger for success that is probably greater than ever. Also I'm totally convinced that I can make 122lb and be strong at the super-bantamweight limit so that's the target for a world title," said Conlan.
The Belfast man's new desire to land a super-bantamweight title has coincided with him being ranked at No.3 in the WBO rankings behind Stephen Fulton and Angelo Leo, who will contest the vacant title this Saturday night. Victory for Conlan over Frenchman Takoucht, plus a win at super-bantam, would pave the way to him becoming the No.1 contender for the WBO 122lb title.
Manager and brother Jamie Conlan has already said that he has a plan for Michael to fight for a world title at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick's night and should - as expected - Philadelphia fighter Fulton defeat Leo, then it would set up a big clash in New York.
While lockdown has been tough for many fighters, Conlan revealed he embraced it and found he returned to the gym to work with coach Adam Booth with a new zeal.
"Adam was surprised with how I came back to training because I was leaner and stronger than ever before. Adam usually hates the first two weeks because I am cutting weight and he doesn't want to waste his time on that so when I came in already down on my weight he was delighted. He has always felt that I could do super-bantamweight so when I told him that's what I was going for he was very pleased," he said.
"Throughout the lockdown I was very disciplined. I was eating the right food, doing the right strength and conditioning work and I just found that I used the time wisely. I felt I matured over the time and more than ever realised what I want from this sport and how I have to live and train to achieve those dreams.
"I no longer want to be a camp fighter, if you know what I mean - I want to be a 12 months a year athlete because that will mean I am giving myself the best chance to get all I want out of this sport for me and my family.
"I know I'm close to a world title shot and if it was up to me I would go for it straight after this fight but I will do what has to be done. I have to take care of Takoucht who is a very good opponent and when you see some of the fights that have been made post-lockdown I think it's fair to say this is one of the best for any top fighter."