Source: Presseye/Stephen Hamilton/INPHO
Updated at 21.30
MICHAEL CONLAN WANTS a step-up in opponent for his Belfast homecoming in early summer, and is confident that the fight will be broadcast on RTÉ – in some capacity – due to a clause in his Top Rank contract.
As first confirmed by promoter Bob Arum to The42 and later by Conlan himself, the two-time Irish Olympian and former amateur world champion will fight for the first time in his hometown as a professional in late May or early June of this year, with Belfast’s 10,000-capacity SSE Arena tentatively booked on two weekends.
In what will be Conlan’s seventh professional fight following his return to Madison Square Garden this March, and a first headline slot on ESPN, the 26-year-old Falls Road featherweight wants the bout to reflect his career progression to that point.
A rankings belt of some description would be optimal, but Conlan is most insistent that he’s provided with a solid opponent to bring the best out of him in front of his adoring home fans.
“I’m not too sure what Top Rank are going to do,” he told The42. “What I want to do next is fight over eight rounds, and I do want some sort of title fight in Belfast. But it’s up to Top Rank what way they want to progress me.
I will be the main event, and I hope it’s for something. I hope it’s a really decent opponent, because I feel like I’m ready. I feel like by the end of next year, I want to start making big waves, really.
“It’ll be MTK fighters, and whether it’s a Sky Show or a BoxNation show – that’ll be the main decider as to who gets on the undercard, I think. It’ll be predominantly our [MTK's] fighters, I’d say.
“Aw, it’ll be a special atmosphere. And I know I’ll get that, like. I know everything will be done right on the promotional side in terms of building the fight, and I believe 100% we’ll be able to sell it out.”
He’s hopeful, too, that the fight will at some stage be shown on his home broadcaster, RTÉ, who carried delayed highlights of his first two professional contests in the States.
When he signed with promotional goliath Top Rank in late 2016, Conlan insisted upon a stipulation in his contract whereby he could delegate the Irish television rights, free-of-charge, to fights in which he was the main event.
Considering he’ll headline for the third time in Belfast this summer, he remains hopeful that his homecoming can be beamed to the Irish masses.
“I definitely see myself working with RTÉ again,” said Conlan.
“We gave them the debut, and I think it’s been a little bit weird since then just because of the Eir Sport/BoxNation deal: All the fights being on BoxNation means Eir Sport have them, and it kind of stops RTÉ from showing them.
But any shows where I’m the main event, RTÉ can – and will – have them, no matter what. And if they want to play it on delay or if they want to play it live, they can.
“I think the first one – the debut – went brilliant. I was happy with that: it was played on delay, but it was played on a Saturday night – that’s primetime TV. What more do you want?
I think they’d be smart to get back into boxing, because it’s seriously on the rise. Especially with Katie [Taylor] now as well, although Sky Sports aren’t going to let RTÉ have her fights!
“But I definitely feel I’ll be able to work something out, somehow, for my fights, because having fights on RTÉ is very important.”
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