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Michael Conlan turned down chance to make debut on Pacquaio's comeback card

Belfast star expected to make pro debut in New York on St Patrick’s Day.

Arum and Conlan: Top Rank boss has guided some of boxing's biggest stars to the top.
Arum and Conlan: Top Rank boss has guided some of boxing's biggest stars to the top.
Image: @BobArum via Twitter

MATTHEW MACKLIN HAS revealed that Michael Conlan passed up the chance to box on Manny Pacquiao’s comeback undercard in order to prepare for a huge professional debut date at New York’s Madison Square Garden Theatre on St Patrick’s weekend.

And Conlan’s new manager has assured Irish fight fans that the amateur world champion will return to Ireland for a regular yearly fight date.

Conlan confirmed on Monday night that he has signed professional terms with US outfit Top Rank, the promotional company behind eight-weight world champion Pacquiao and a host of other star boxers.

The Belfast bantamweight is set to make his debut at New York’s Madison Square Garden Theatre in the first of a six-fight-per-year deal with Top Rank following his departure from the amateurs after a highly-contentious Olympic defeat to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in Rio.

Macklin, the former European middleweight champion and Conlan’s new manager, today revealed that Top Rank were keen to get their new star on a 5 November card in Las Vegas that will mark Pacquiao’s return to the ring following a brief seven-month retirement.

But Macklin and Top Rank ultimately decided that the 24-year-old should rest up after a hectic amateur schedule over the last year, instead favouring a sensational debut date in New York’s Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden.

“They wanted him initially to box on November 5 on the Manny Pacquiao card,” said Macklin.

“But we explained that the last four years have been pretty hectic – building up to the Europeans and Worlds [championships], Commonwealth Games and Olympics and everything.

So we said, ‘Enjoy yourself between now and Christmas, then get the head down in January and then make your debut on Paddy’s weekend’. That’s the real beginning then.

“There’s going to be a million opportunities for Michael Conlan – the world is his oyster,” added Macklin, who challenged then-pound-for-pound contender Sergio Martinez for the lineal middleweight world championship at the MSG Theatre four years ago.

“It’s not set in stone, but that’s what they’re looking at,” said Macklin on the New York Patrick’s Day date. “The pinnacle of my career was fighting Martinez there and now he’s making his debut there!”

“Part of the deal is there’ll be at least one fight in Ireland. It’ll be a minimum of six fights a year [overall], it could be eight, but it’ll be a minimum of six,” said Macklin, insisting that Conlan will fight in his homeland at least once a year, despite being based in the US.

Birmingham-born former Irish champion Macklin, who will manage both Conlan and his Ireland team-mate Paddy Barnes, also expressed his delight at securing the amateur world champion’s deal with one of world boxing’s promotional giants.

Top Rank launched the careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Oscar De La Hoya, while CEO Bob Arum promoted legendary fighters such as Muhammad Ali.

“It’s a great move, we’re delighted,” said Macklin, who was busy in Dallas last weekend as his fighter Liam Smith gallantly lost out to Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

“It was a few weeks back and forth with Top Rank before it was agreed, but you then you’re back and forth with the lawyers getting the details right. You’re talking different time zones so it took a bit of time.”

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Michael Conlan chasing American dream as he signs pro deal with Pacquiao’s promoter

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Ciarán Gallagher

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