Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO Michael Conlan taking to the ring in Belfast last year. He returns to his hometown this Saturday night.
Getting closer

World-title fight between Conlan and Warrington 'an appealing one for the fans' - Warren

Conlan is currently ranked fifth by the WBO and 12th by the IBF, and headlines in Belfast this weekend.

BRITISH BOXING PROMOTER Frank Warren believes a world-title clash between his IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington and Ireland’s Michael Conlan is edging closer towards coming to fruition, with Conlan due to headline an outdoor show in his native Belfast this Saturday.

The 11-0(6KOs) Top Rank prospect is currently rated fifth by the WBO and 12th by the IBF, and all going to plan this weekend could wind up challenging for a world title in the next 12 months — or within his next two or three fights.

Conlan faces Argentina’s Diego Alberto Ruiz [21-2, 10KOs] in a Top Rank boxing card at Féile an Phobail in three days’ time, when their outdoor bout in front of 10,000 fans will be broadcast live on BT Sport in Ireland and the UK as well as ESPN+ in the States.

And Warren believes victory for Conlan could move him a step closer toward challenging his prized 126-pounder in the not-too-distant future.

“An outdoor arena is being constructed for Michael’s featherweight showdown – and a decent step up in his 12th fight – against Diego Alberto Ruiz,” Warren wrote in his weekly column.

It should be well worth tuning in for, especially as Michael has designs on challenging for the IBF world featherweight title held by our own Josh Warrington. Michael rightly backs himself to move quickly in the pro ranks, given his storied amateur pedigree, and a dust-up with Josh would be an appealing one for the fans.

“The unbeaten Josh, meanwhile, will be back in action on October 12 and looking to maintain the momentum he has generated in victories over Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and Kid Galahad over the last year and a bit. He is a genuine elite world champion and it is important to keep him active.”

Warren and Conlan’s promoter Bob Arum are close friends and partners within the business of boxing, with Queensbury Promotions fighters now featuring regularly on ESPN as part of Top Rank’s multi-year deal with the US broadcaster.

Both Queensbury and Top Rank also work closely with Conlan’s management company, MTK Global.

Speaking after today’s media workout in Belfast, the 27-year-old local featherweight said: “Fighting at Falls Park is really a dream come true. Féile an Phobail is now in its 31st year. I remember going to the festival for many years when I was a kid. The atmosphere has always been very celebratory for the Irish people, and fighting there on 3 August will be very special.

“I have so many friends and family who live very close to Falls Park. When I was younger, we lived very close, and it was like a second home for my friends and I.

“I’m really excited. [Ruiz] is very, very good. He’s a tough guy, and if I want to be world champion, I need to beat this guy. I think you’ll see the best Michael Conlan yet come Saturday.”

Though he’s ranked higher by the WBO, the IBF route could conceivably see the Adam Booth-trained Conlan fight for a world title sooner: WBO champion Oscar Valdez currently has his eyes firmly fixed upon Conlan’s Top Rank stablemate and Carl Frampton, with a winter world-title bout between the pair in the works for wintertime should Frampton prevail in his warm-up fight in Philadelphia in August.

American up-and-comer Shakur Stevenson — who fought in Conlan’s Olympic weight class at Rio 2016, winning silver — would be next in line to face the eventual Valdez-Frampton winner provided he maintains his number-one contender status in the interim.

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