Michael Conlan: ‘In 350 amateur fights I fought in many people’s back gardens and won many titles in those gardens. It’s nothing new to me’

Michael Conlan tells Elliot and Russell how he will complete the second stage of his career by beating Lee Wood

There is a moment in the career of every so-called golden boy when the constant adulation, the voices of the home crowd, and the walk to the second ring become somewhat old hat. This usually coincides with calls for the Golden Boy to climb up, move around, or fight a better opposition, and often results in the Golden Boy crossing paths and exploring terrain without the comforts of home or any kind of protection. In the case of featherweight star Michael Conlan, the moment will arrive on March 12, when he will fight Lee Wood – there are still plenty of competitors who would pick him to win – in Nottingham, Wood’s hometown.

For a man like Conlan, someone accustomed to the roar of his Irish audience, it would be a new experience, at least in the course of his career, as well as a much-needed one.

“Once it was announced, the hype I had was unbelievable and it has been running through me ever since,” he said. “People will say, ‘He never fought in someone’s back garden,’ but I’ve had close to 350 amateur fights and fought in many people’s back gardens and won many titles in those parks. Nothing new to me. This will be the first time Which I walk into the ring first as a pro, but that’s something I’m really looking forward to and something I’ve gone through in my head a few times.

“The big difference between us is that I’ve fought in front of huge crowds, at home, and I know the pressure that brings. It’s all new to him.

“I am totally focused on what I have to do. There is no pressure on me. I just have to go out there and perform.”

Honestly, Conlan, 16-0 (8), wasn’t forced to fight Wood on Wood’s patch. Instead, after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations, Conlan finally wanted to do it.

“With the money that was given to the fight, Eddie [Hearn, promoter] He had plans to take the fight to New York, but I don’t think he got the right guarantee from [Madison Square] Conlan said. “Leigh has a good fan base but it’s not the biggest fan base. I think if I was fighting a bigger name I would probably sell the park quickly. I don’t know if Lee could help do that with the traveling fans, but either way, I thought he’d be in New York, then I was told it would most likely end up in the UK or Ireland.

“I thought he’d be next in Manchester but then again I don’t think Eddie thought Lee could sell in Manchester. I know I can do 10,000 there, but it wasn’t.

“Then the idea of ​​fighting in Belfast came to us, but Lee Hee [WBA secondary] The hero and I accepted that he was worth fighting in his own backyard. They offered to pay me a lump sum for this to happen and I said, ‘No problem.’

‘What they don’t know is that I would have fought him in Nottingham for no lump sum. In fact, when we were talking about going to New York, my father said to me, ‘No, don’t do it there, do it in his back garden.’ It makes it more noticeable and worthwhile. It makes more than one story.

“One time he said that, I was kind of like, ‘You’re right, Dad. This would be unbelievable. By then, I was sold by the idea and they didn’t really need to offer me that lump sum to go there. My heart is already set to go there for free.”

Charles McQuillan / Getty Images

Apparently, as much as Conlan goes to Nottingham for the win and Wood’s title, he’s also embarking on a quest to get the experience he’s likely to gain along the way. An ambitious man, Wood does not see Nottingham as a moment of Everest, but rather the second stage of what he hopes will be a long, challenging and fruitful walk.

“It’s not even about Lee Wood for me,” said Conlan, 30. “It’s about the opportunity and taking the next step to become the best in the division and the best fighter that I can be. Lee Wood is currently holding the WBA ‘regular’ title, but I think the fight could end with the ‘Super’ title, so this is just another step for me. , in realizing the potential that I know I possess.

“I look like this is the first of many. I don’t want to be a one time freak. My goal is to become a multi world champion and Lee Wood is the first step on that ladder. His belt is the one I want and his hit brings me closer to proving that I’m the best in the class “.

As for Wood, Conlan’s respect for the 33-year-old has usurped, ultimately, by his need to be pushed aside. “He has a lot to offer and he still has a lot to prove,” Conlan said. “But I’m expecting the best Leigh Wood ever. When you win a title, you have that extra hype and belief in yourself and I’m sure he’s got it. I know this is going to be a tough, tough fight, but I also know that if I stick to what I do best, I can win it.” Snugly.

“And who’s to say I can’t stop Lee Wood? I know I’m not the biggest puncher in the world, but I was stopped by a lower hitter than me at Gavin McDonnell and damaged by a punch less than me at Jazza Dickens. It’s not like Rocky Balboa with an iron chin. I have extremes Respect to the man, and I think he’s due to have a big night out in Nottingham, but I know what I have to do to beat him.”

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