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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Emily Harney/INPHO Michael Conlan celebrates his March victory at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater.
# Breakout
I’ve had a target on my back since the amateurs: Conlan on song for Belfast 'coming-out party'
The Belfast man will wear a tribute to the recently killed Limerick boxer Kevin Sheehy, whose favourite fighter was Conlan himself.

MICHAEL CONLAN INSISTS he will handle the weight of expectation when he takes to the ring in front of a 10,000-strong vocal support at Falls Park in his hometown of Belfast this weekend.

The 27-year-old, who grew up on the nearby Falls Road, will fight in Belfast for the second time as a professional when he headlines a Top Rank and MTK Global bill at the city’s Féile an Phobail on Saturday night.

Conlan faces Argentinian Diego Alberto Ruiz in a 10-round featherweight clash with a rankings boost at stake as he begins in earnest his pursuit of world titles.

The former amateur world champion is already ranked in the top five by the WBO, and believes Saturday’s scrap with the 21-2(10KOs) Ruiz will see him produce a career-best performance in what will be his 12th professional outing.

“I’ve had a target on my back since the amateur days,” Conlan said at today’s press conference in Belfast.

Even when I came into the professional ranks, there were expectations on my shoulders. I know how to deal with the pressure.

“This is obviously different and something bigger than I could have ever imagined”, said the 11-0(6KOs) Conlan of his second homecoming, “but I just plan on going in there and enjoying it. When I get into the ring, it’s all business.

Over the last six or seven months everything has clicked. I’ve been in training for this fight since April, and I’ve learned so much. I believe this is a coming-out party for me and it’s the best Michael Conlan you’ll see.

Michael Conlan with Adeilson Dos Santos Presseye / Jonathan Porter/INPHO Conlan last fought in Belfast last summer. Presseye / Jonathan Porter/INPHO / Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Ruiz, who suffered two defeats inside his first 13 pro bouts — one via disqualification — has won his last 10, half of them inside the distance.

He picked up a minor Latin American title in his last outing, a career-best victory over heavy-handed compatriot Luis Emanuel Cusolito (then 27-3, 21KOs).

And the Argentine is confident his hot streak will continue across the Atlantic this Saturday.

“I know Michael Conlan very well and he’s a very quick and fast boxer” said the 25-year-old.

He’s had a fantastic amateur career, but we’ve come here to win this fight and that’s what we’ll do.

Added Adam Booth, Conlan’s trainer: “This event is extremely popular, and he’s fighting a guy who is better than anyone he’s boxed so far in his career. This is a special event, and my job is to ensure he does his job and that he performs how he’s supposed to perform.”

I want to see the progression and want to see what Michael does in the gym when he’s out in the spotlight. It’s all about the evolution of him as a fighter, and this is an event to match it.

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Conlan will wear trunks with the words ‘RIP KS’ emblazoned across the left thigh this weekend, a tribute to the late Limerick boxer Kevin Sheehy who was killed in a hit-and-run incident in his native county in June. The Belfast man was Sheehy’s favourite boxer.

Sheehy’s trainer, Ken Moore, described it as “an incredible gesture” from a “true Irish champ”.

EAv3EeBXsAYJoAM Conlan's trunks will pay tribute to Irish champion boxer Kevin Sheehy.

He will also wear a patch on his trunks in honour of Maxim Dadashev, the Russian light-welterweight who died following injuries suffered in a fight on 19 July.

Conlan-Ruiz will be broadcast live on BT Sport in Ireland and the UK as well as ESPN+ in America.

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