By Sean Crose
“It will be difficult at times,” said Belfast player Michael Conlan BBC“but I believe I’ll go out and win – and win comfortably.” Indeed, this weekend the 31-year-old Conlan will be attempting to win the world title for the second time. The Irishman’s first crack in the fight for the main belt came in March 2022, when he lost a stunning battle to Leigh Wood. He may not have succeeded, but Conlan’s impressive attempt to wrest the WBA featherweight belt from Wood only reinforced his reputation as a keen and determined fighter.
Now this Saturday, he will face the IBF featherweight king Luis Alberto Lopez, who himself impressed many when he won the divisional crown last December by defeating Josh Warrington. Indeed, Mexican Lopez, who traveled to England to beat England’s Warrington, is confident enough to fight Conlan in Conlan’s native Northern Ireland on Saturday. Conlan, however, exudes confidence. “My emotions are cool and calm,” he said BBC. “I can’t wait. It’s going to be a great night.”
One of the advantages of Conlan taking part in Saturday’s fight, aside from the fact that he will face Lopez at home, is the fact that he knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight. Conlan has been essentially a star since his controversial but endearing presence at the 2012 Olympics. “I’ve experienced great nights and great atmospheres many times,” said Conlan. As for the defeat at the hands of gloved Wood, the 18-1 was clearly thinking about his lone defeat.
“I lost on a momentous occasion where I was under a lot of pressure. I put pressure on myself,” he said. “I sort of fed on the atmosphere, so I’ve learned all of that, and now we’re getting into this.” Indeed, Conlan is a man who can see the big picture. “It’s all an experience, having to go through these kinds of fights and wars and seeing different things,” he said. “It’s special that we’re fighting here. I’m honored and it’s always great to have support.”
Adam Booth, Conlan’s trainer, takes a practical approach. He clearly doesn’t think Conlan had to start from scratch after losing to Wood, just finding a way to improve. “It was normal with some improvements,” he said of the preparations for Saturday. “He’s as ready as ever,” he added of Conlan.