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Starstruck Conlan hoping to light up the undercard down under

The Belfast boxer is fighting in Australia this weekend.

Michael Conlan comfortably came through his pro debut.
Michael Conlan comfortably came through his pro debut.
Image: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Ciarán Gallagher reports from Brisbane

MICHAEL CONLAN WAS a cool customer throughout the hyped build-up to his St Patrick’s Day pro debut in New York and he has adopted a similarly relaxed demeanour ahead of his undercard bout on Manny Pacquiao’s world-title bill in Australia this weekend.

However, the Belfast man was feeling the heat during an encounter with his Top Rank stablemate, the legendary eight-weight world champion, this week in their Brisbane hotel.

“I was in the same lift as him, but I was a bit starstruck! He had all his security around him, so I didn’t want to be trying to start a conversation,” laughed Conlan when quizzed on whether he has had the chance to approach Pacquiao for a chat or some friendly advice ahead of their respective bouts at the Suncorp Stadium.

“He’s one of my favourite fighters… I’m honoured to fight on a Pacquiao undercard. It’s a special, special event,” added the Olympic medallist on a more serious note ahead of his six-rounder against local fighter Jarrett Owen on Sunday afternoon local time – around 3am Sunday morning, Irish time.

Boxing Pacquiao Horn Manny Pacquiao will be the star of the show this weekend. Source: John Pye

While Conlan features in one of two chief-support bouts to Pacquiao’s WBO world welterweight title defence against Aussie Jeff Horne, the 25-year-old Irishman hopes an undercard slot will afford him the chance to box without attracting the same high level of analysis that surrounded his previous headline dates.

Having topped his first two bills in New York and Chicago, the Matthew Macklin-managed fighter is content to be a little bit out of the limelight while still competing on a high-profile card.

A large amount of an anticipated 55,000-plus crowd are expected to be present when he takes on Brisbane’s Owen, who carries a record of 5-4-3, over six rounds between the super-bantam and featherweight limits, but most of the media attention in Brisbane this week has been on the Philippines’ most famous fighting export.

A public workout was held for some undercard fighters in Brisbane this afternoon, but Conlan was not obliged to go through his paces as he has balanced other media commitments with training throughout the week.

“It’s still up there and high profile, but there’s not that added pressure to go out there steal the show,” said Conlan, who is expected to box at noon local time on Sunday, while Pacquiao will be in the ring a couple of hours later as the fight card has been set to suit primetime TV in the US on Saturday night.

ESPN will broadcast the bill to an anticipated Stateside audience of 5-10 million, while BoxNation will screen the card live in Ireland and the UK.

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The world amateur champion travelled to Brisbane from his Los Angeles training base last week and is comfortable that he has acclimatised ahead of his afternoon fight date.

“It’s been no problem at all… I kind of just adjusted [to the time difference] on the plane. I’ve been waking up early in the morning over here, about 6am, and I’ve been training around the time I’ll be in the ring,” explained Conlan, who sparred undefeated two Australian prospects, brothers Jason and Andrew Moloney, earlier this week – the latter a 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

“I done a bit of sparring and I felt good and sharp,” said the Belfast super-bantamweight. “They’d probably be two of the best here in Australia, super-bantam and bantam.

“I sparred them and done three rounds with each… I was doing six rounds straight, but they were gassing more than me and they were only fighting the other week [on June 3].”

The bout will also mark Conlan’s first outdoor fight date as a professional and while it is wintertime Down Under, the weather remains pleasant and quite warm in Brisbane, with temperatures expected to be around 22 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

Conlan, however, is unfazed as he has some experience of boxing outdoors in Australia after claiming a flyweight gold medal at the Arafura Games – a now defunct tournament – back in 2009.

“That was outdoors, my first senior international tournament,” recalled Conlan. “I won gold after three fights and I was way more nervous about that, although it was at night time.

“It [fighting outdoors] hasn’t entered my head. The fight’s going to be early enough in the day as well so it’s not going to be too hot at that time. I love the heat,” said the 25-year-old, whose regular training base is in Los Angeles at coach Manny Robles’ Rock Gym in Carson.

“The gym in LA is probably warmer inside than it is outside at times and we have to get on with it in there. Even throughout my career, when I was training in Breen’s Gym (Belfast), you’re training in probably 100 [degrees] Fahrenheit or whatever it is,” laughed Conlan.

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About the author:

Ciarán Gallagher

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