Saturday 23 February 2019

Michael Conlan set for another Madison Square Garden fight as St Patrick's Day bout is confirmed

22 December 2018; Michael Conlan, left, in action against Jason Cunningham during their Featherweight bout at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
22 December 2018; Michael Conlan, left, in action against Jason Cunningham during their Featherweight bout at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

For the third St Patrick’s Day in-a-row, Ireland’s Michael Conlan will be in action in New’s York iconic Madison Square Garden as he bids to make it eleven wins on the spin since his professional debut at the venue in 2017.

Conlan’s opponent has been named as Mexican featherweight Ruben Garcia Hernandez, who is a more experienced fighter with 29 professional bouts under his belt.

Even though he has won 24 of those contests, his career has hit a speed hump in the last 18 months. He has won just two of his four fights, drew one and his loss came against four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire.

The latter is well known to Irish boxing fans as he was beaten by Carl Frampton in Belfast last year before taking Ryan Burnett’s WBA world bantamweight belt when the latter was forced to retire injured in the fourth round in Glasgow in November.

Hernandez is ranked 258th in the world featherweight division, whereas Conlan is 43rd.

Promoted by Top Rank, the fight takes place in the Hulu Theater in MSG where Conlan has become a St Patrick’s Day fixture since turning professional. The fight will be steamed live on ESPN.

"I’m excited and honoured to fight at my home away from home for the third consecutive year. The fans in New York have been incredibly supportive of my professional career and I look forward to putting on a show for them," said the 2015 world amateur gold medallist.

Since switching trainer to the Surrey-based Adam Booth, Conlan has showed consistent improvement but this is an important year in his burgeoning career.

In his most recent contest on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s world title fight in Manchester before Christmas, he captured the vacant WBO intercontinental featherweight belt with a unanimous decision over Jason Cunningham.

However, it won’t be lost on Conlan that his Top Rank team-mate Shakur Stevenson has forged ahead of him in the pro ranks.

Conlan was pencilled in to meet the then 18-year old American kid in the 2016 Olympic semi-final until the Irishman was the victim of a woeful judging decision against Russian Vladimir Nikitin in the bronze medal bout. Just to rub salt into Conlan’s open wounds, the Russian – who is likely to face Conlan in the pro ranks before the end of 2019 – was declared unfit for the silver medal fight against the American.

Stevenson has an identical professional record to Conlan but is ranked 18th in the world after his latest win earlier this month.

Forty eight hours before Conlan’s New York fight, his former Olympic team-mate Katie Taylor will bid for her third world belt in Philadelphia on a show which is expected to feature several other Irish pro fighters including Spike O’Sullivan, Niall Kennedy and John Joe Nevin.

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