Michael Conlan’s wait for a world title shot is likely to extend until the end of the year.
But while the politics of boxing has frustrated the 29-year-old and left him with more questions than answers, fighting at home in Belfast this summer offers some relief.
There also remains the tantalising possibility that while he waits for a shot at one world title, two more could be added to the mix before the year is out.
Conlan marked his first fight at super-bantamweight with a polished majority decision win against Ionut Baluta in May – outpointing the self-anointed ‘Irish Slayer’ who scored two hugely impressive wins over TJ Doheny and David Oliver Joyce leading into the fight.
The win was thought to be enough to cement his status as the mandatory challenger for the WBO belt held by Stephen Fulton. However, the Philadelphia fighter is now already locked into a 11 September bout with WBA and WBC champion Brandon Figueroa, who stopped Luis Nery to claim the famous green belt this month.
The bottom line for Conlan is he will have to wait his turn. Although he will be ready to step in should plans change in the coming months, he expects his mandatory title shot to be confirmed once the dust settles in September.
‘I definitely think I’m on the brink [of challenging for the WBO title] but these boxing politics just p**s me off,’ Conlan told Metro.co.uk.
‘Fulton, who is a fantastic champion, already had the fight lined up for 11 September for the winner of a fight that hadn’t even happened yet [Figueroa vs Nery]. It is crazy, it hadn’t even happened yet. And he was fighting the winner.
‘I don’t understand why but I do understand the game. And I understand how it is played. So I know now I’m in that mandatory position still and that mandatory will have to be announced right after that date on 11 September and they will have 90 days to face me.
‘That’s how it seems it is going to happen but, in the meantime, I’ve got to box, I’ve got to stay active. I will have another one in between. There have been some names thrown about but that looks like it is going be the first weekend or second weekend of August.’
Fighting back home at Feile an Phobail in Falls Park should provide the ideal remedy to that frustration with the former Olympian desperate to feel the atmosphere of a rocking Belfast crowd.
Since turning professional in 2017, he has fought back home just twice, the last time against Diego Ruiz two years ago, and is eager to make up for lost time.
‘There are loads of talks and loads meetings going on right at this minute. Hopefully we can do it again with fans in Belfast in the Falls Park,’ Conlan, an ambassador for Built for Athletes’, added.
‘Anybody who knows me and has watched my career will remember the night we had in 2019, one of the best atmospheres you are ever going to experience in boxing.
‘Although I might not be the most exciting fighter in the world, my fanbase still love me. When I’m boxing in Belfast, it is something special. It is a different type of feeling and I believe anybody who steps in the ring in front of me on any date in Belfast will be beaten.’
Should he come through his summer test unscathed, Conlan’s promoter Bob Arum will be eager for his man to get his first world title shot locked in by the end of the year, by which time either Fulton or Figueroa are likely to hold three of the division’s four major world titles.
‘If everything goes the way it seems to be going there is a possibility I could end up fighting for three belts in the winter. That’s fantastic, that’s even better,’ he continued.
‘The WBC title, it’s the belt everyone in boxing wants to win, it’s probably the most famous belt. But I have had my eyes set on the WBO for a long time.
I’ll let my brother deal with all that stuff but I have been calling for that fight [for the WBO belt] for forever so I can’t let myself get caught up, I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.’
Conlan came through impressively after dropping down in weight to super-bantamweight against Baluta and was on the brink of challenging for the WBO title at featherweight before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
While earlier in his career he would play down talk of doing what no Irish fighter has done before in becoming a three-weight world champion, the belief he can do that has reawakened. With trainer Adam Booth guiding him, he now believes the goal of accomplishing what Carl Frampton fell agonisingly short of doing earlier this year is now a definite possibility.
‘Before I turned pro, I always wanted to be a three-weight world champion. But when I went to featherweight, that opinion went out of my head. I thought I was probably a little too small, I didn’t punch hard enough to be a lightweight. I could definitely do feather, super-feather. But now I am back at super-bantam it opens that door again for three-weight.
‘Now I have that height, I have the stature, I have the build. I’m much taller than Carl, physically I’m a lot bigger. He punches harder but at the same time I believe I can fill out and get stronger too.
‘I was a big featherweight, I’m a huge super-bantamweight and I will be a normal size super-featherweight.
‘The aim was always to be a three-weight world champion and then get out of the game with everything intact and with the money in the bank. That’s the dream for everybody and it doesn’t always happen, but I think I’m doing well at the minute and am on track to where I want to be.’
Michael Conlan is an ambassador of Built for Athletes, creators of bespoke, high-quality ergonomic backpacks loved by over 75,000 athletes worldwide.
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