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Return of the Mick: Michael Conlan gets another crack at world honours in Belfast on May 27th

By Niall O'Connell

Charismatic Irishman Michael Conlan will once again get a chance to become a world champion, as he faces the recently crowned IBF featherweight king Luis Alberto Lopez on May 27th at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

Conlan (18-1, 9 KO's) will be looking to finally banish the ghost of his stunning knockout defeat against Leigh Wood in the last round of the pairs battle for the WBA crown at 126lbs last year. The slick Belfast switch hitter signed a professional deal with Bob Arums Top Rank Promotions in 2016 following a tremendous amateur career where he racked up World, European and Commonwealth Games gold medals, as well as a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Comfortably winning the first sixteen fights of his career, Conlan eventually signed on the dotted line for his first world title fight, and plenty of people expected him to emulate his sensational amateur achievements in the paid ranks against the champion, Leigh Wood who had the backing of an incredibly partisan Nottingham crowd. When Conlan floored and hurt Wood early, it seemed for all the world that he'd be heading back across the water with the gold. Wood weathered the storm, however, and produced an epic encounter across the following eleven rounds, before knocking Conlan out of the ring altogether in an incredibly dramatic turn of events in the final stanza. It was a disastrous setback in the promising career of Conlan, but he managed to rebuild very well, notching up consecutive victories against Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi, both in front of his home crowd in Belfast. Now, against Lopez, he can finally put that awful night in Nottingham behind him and fulfill his destiny as a professional that many had predicted he would for so long.

“This is a massive opportunity,” said Conlan.

“Fighting for the world title in Belfast is something I’ve always dreamed of and I will be taking this opportunity with both hands.

“I will do everything I can to bring a world title home. Credit to Lopez for coming to Belfast, but I am taking his title. He is not prepared for what is coming his way. Ireland will see a new champion crowned.”

The champion, Lopez (27-2, 15 KO's), is no stranger to travelling behind enemy lines and coming out victorious. The heavy handed Mexican turned professional back in 2015 and despite suffering a pair of defeats, he has won his last ten consecutive outings. Included in that excellent winning streaks are victories over Isaac Lowe at Londons iconic York Hall, and a decision win over the previously unbeaten, exciting prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. Last time out, back in December, Lopez travelled to the notoriously hostile First Direct Arena in Leeds to produce a brilliant display in dethroning two time world champion and local hero Josh Warrington for the biggest victory of his career to become a world champion in the featherweight division. As first defences go, they won't come much tougher than facing Michael Conlan in Belfast, but Lopez has already proved he has the quality and the nerve to produce the goods against a high level of opponent anywhere across the globe.

“I am a road warrior,” Lopez said. “Travelling to my opponent’s home country doesn’t faze me.

“I won my world title in Leeds, and now it’s time to defend it in Belfast. The louder they cheer for Michael, the harder I will fight. The IBF title will remain in Mexico.”

It promises to be an enthralling night in Belfast!


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