Saturday night at the SSE Arena, Belfast, sees the ‘Return of Mick’, as the show is being billed. That’s right, Michael Conlan makes his return to the ring after his heavy last-gasp knockout defeat to Leigh Wood in March. He faces former three time world title challenger, Miguel Marriaga in a featherweight contest.
Big time boxing is well and truly back in Belfast, with 12 fights on this stacked bill from the Northern Irish capital. Celtic title fights, undefeated Irish vs undefeated Irish and big names such as Tyrone McKenna, Lewis Crocker, Padraig McCrory and Sean McComb all feature on this stellar night of boxing at the sold out SSE Arena.
Looking at the main event, it is most certainly an intriguing one. You’ve got the hometown hero, Mick Conlan, returning after a devastating knockout defeat which saw him wilt unconsciously through the ropes and onto the floor in front of his brother and father against Leigh Wood. Conlan will be hopeful of getting back to winning ways and accelerating towards a world title shot in the featherweight division next year, but first he must come through this tough, durable Colombian who will come to fight.
What makes this contest so intriguing is that, on paper at least, it seems like a boxer versus a puncher. Conlan being the slick mover with the fast hands, exceptional footwork and higher boxing IQ, against a man who has stopped 26 of his 30 victims in the ring.
In Michael Conlan, you have a man who was a standout amateur for Ireland and won several titles in the unpaid ranks. The four-time Irish Champion also won the Commonwealth Games, the European Championships and AIBA World Championships as an amateur, as well as fighting in two Olympic Games.
Since moving over to the professional game, Conlan has brought his loyal Irish fans with him, and has filled arenas in New York and Belfast since his debut. None other than Conor McGregor, UFC superstar and Irish royalty, walked Conlan to the ring for his professional debut at Madison Square Garden back in 2017 on St Patrick’s Day. This is the type of superstar Conlan is, his fans travel in their masses and get behind their man, no matter what.
Michael Conlan is hoping to get back to winning ways after suffering defeat to Leigh Wood (Photo: Belfast Live)
Conlan has slowly but surely made his way up the rankings as a pro, flirting with both super-bantamweight and featherweight. Some notable wins over the likes of Vladimir Nikitin, his former amateur rival who was on the right end of a dodgy decision at the 2016 Rio Olympics, TJ Doheny and Jason Cunningham have seen Conlan rise to the cusp of a world title shot, which he seemingly got against Leigh Wood in Nottingham in March earlier this year.
In what was quite possibly one of the fights of the year so far and potentially one of the knockouts of the year too, Conlan came unstuck against a relentless Wood, who simply had more left in the tank in the final round and capitalised on the Irishman’s exhaustion.
There is no doubt that Conlan was winning the fight right up until he was caught in the 11th and seemingly halted in the 12th, which shows that world level is where Michael Conlan should be. This fight is a pure stepping stone on his path back to the boxing summit, in which the 30-year-old will be hoping of it bearing fruit second time around.
In the opposite corner you have Miguel Marriaga. The Colombian powerhouse has been floating around the upper echelons of the 126 and 130-pound divisions for almost a decade. ‘The Scorpion’ has had a taster of world title fights on three occasions. Marriaga has shared a ring with Nicholas Walters, Oscar Valdez and Vasyl Lomachenko, all in world title fights, and succumbing to defeat in all three contests.
However, despite possibly entering the final few fights of his career, the 35-year-old most certainly still has aspirations of giving it at least one more go at world title glory. A win for Marriaga on Saturday night would catapult him right to the very top of potential world title challengers in the featherweight division in 2023.
The most interesting aspect of this fight if you are looking at it from a neutral perspective is that Marriaga has an 87% knockout ratio in the 30 fights he has had his hand raised in. That added to the fact that Conlan isn’t known as a big puncher and the fact the Irishman got knocked out in his last fight, makes this battle in Belfast a very intriguing one.
Miguel Marriaga has had three world title shots in his career to date (Photo: NotiFight)
Conlan will have to be on his A–game for the full 36 minutes this weekend, if he is to walk away to rapturous applause from his hometown Belfast fans.
A win here for either man certainly puts the featherweight division on notice, and the victor should be shouting from the rooftops for his shot at one of the four world title belts in 2023.
A win for Conlan and he could throw his name right back into the had to rematch Leigh Wood for his WBA crown, or go down the IBF route and face the IBF champion, Leeds’s very own Josh Warrington. A win for Marriaga and he could well get his fourth shot at world honours against the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, WBO title holder Emanuel Navarrete or newly crowned WBC champion, Rey Vargas.
No matter how much each man will be dreaming of getting their hand raised on Saturday night in a loud frenzy of singing and shouting from the SSE Arena in Belfast, they must concentrate on the job in hand and get the win first and foremost.
All the pressure is on Conlan. He is the hometown favourite, the fight is in his back yard and he’s coming off a loss. It really is make or break for Mick Conlan. For the Colombian, it could well be his last roll of the dice at the upper ends of the sport of boxing. Marriaga is going behind enemy lines, will have the crowd on his back and will have to silence them in the only way he knows how, by knocking his opponent out.
Whichever way this fight goes on Saturday night, the fans in attendance in Belfast are in for a real treat with the return of their superstar, Michael Conlan, topping the bill with an abundance of young Irish talent on the undercard as well. It really is not one to be missed on Saturday night!
Michael Conlan (16-1, 8 KOs)
Leigh Wood – LOSS – KO Round 12
TJ Doheny – WIN – UD (116-111, 116-111, 119-108)
Ionut Baluta – WIN – MD (115-114, 117-112, 114-114)
Sofiane Takoucht – WIN – TKO Round 10
Miguel Marriaga (30-5, 25 KOs)
Eduardo Ramirez – LOSS – UD (90-99, 90-99, 90-99)
Jorge Garcia – WIN – TKO Round 6
Joet Gonzalez – LOSS – UD (93-97, 91-99, 91-99)
Alfredo Mejia – WIN – KO Round 6
Date: August 6th 2022
Time: Approx. 10.30 Ring Walk (GMT)
Venue: SSE Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Promotor: Conlan Boxing (live on YouTube)
Official Fight Night Poster (Photo: @mickconlan11 on Twitter)
Elsewhere on this stacked 11 fight undercard, Padraig McCrory takes on Marco Periban for the WBC International Silver Super-Middleweight Title, meanwhile Tyrone McKenna takes on Welshman Chris Jenkins in a tasty welterweight clash. Paddy Donovan faces Tom Hill in a welterweight contest, Colm Murphy and Ruadhan Farrell face off for the BUI Celtic Featherweight title and Tokyo 2020 Irish Olympian, Kurt Walker, returns to the ring in a featherweight contest.
Unbeaten Irish fighters, James McGivern and Tony McGlynn throw down, as well as big names in Belfast such as Lewis Crocker and Sean McComb getting back into the ring and shaking off some ring rust for the first time this year. Kieran Molloy, Thomas Carty and Fearghus Quinn also feature on the bill, their opponents are yet to be confirmed.