Monday 19 March 2018

Conlan desperate to make Belfast proud

Michael Conlan
Michael Conlan
David Kelly

David Kelly

Michael Conlan will bid to chalk up a fourth successive professional victory when he takes on 30-year-old Kenny Guzman in Tuscon, Arizona, in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Once more he will have a prominent role, this time backing up exciting WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez.

The 25-year-old Belfast fighter has already caught the imagination of the public Stateside, with the power of Top Rank driving him forward.

The expectation surrounding his potential could hardly be higher and he is relishing the chance to return home for a big night.

"I have to be here in LA to be successful. But I stay in touch with everything back home - I even have a box for the TV that gets me the six o'clock UTV news and I watch that every morning before I go to training," said Conlan.

"The more I'm away from home, the more proud I am of being from Belfast. I've people writing to me, identifying with me because they have had to travel to make a better life for themselves.

"There was one fella working in Canada who went to school with me and he made sure he was at my debut on St Patrick's night.

"That's very humbling. I feel I'm representing everyone from Belfast. I was proud of winning the World Championship gold for Ireland and I was so proud of winning gold at the Commonwealth Games."

Making the switch to Los Angeles to be based with highly-respected coach Manny Robles was a move Conlan believes had to be made and the 25-year-old insists he has already reaped the benefit, working alongside world-class operators such as Valdez and Jo Jo Diaz, who fought on the supporting bill to Gennady Golovkin's showdown with Canelo Alvarez.

"I feel I've improved every day I've been out here. I had to go away to become a professional fighter. I look at some of the guys who were on Team GB and they have gone pro but still have an amateur style," added Conlan, who will be moving up to featherweight for the first time against Guzman, who is also unbeaten in three fights as a pro.

"In America, everything is about being smart in the ring, sitting down on your punches, being smart defensively as well as offensively.

"I've changed a lot and I'm working on a lot. I'll never be the finished article, but I am working hard and I am ready for this fight."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport