BELFAST battler Jamie Conlan walks the tightrope when he headlines at the Waterfront Hall in his home city this Friday.
The thrill monger known as ‘The Mexican’ – already rated second by the WBO and ninth by the IBF – seeks to crash the WBC rankings when he collides with Nicaragua’s former world title challenger Yader Cardoza for the International Silver super-flyweight strap, live on BoxNation.
And with a long overdue world title challenge beckoning, the 30 year old Ulsterman knows there is no margin for error.
“Hopefully a great performance on Friday will finally lead to a huge fight against a big name at a massive arena,” says the reigning Commonwealth 115lbs king who has won all 18 pro gigs with 11 stoppage wins.
Globally, the 8st 3lbs division is awash with elite champions, with P4P contenders Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue nestled on the WBC and WBO thrones, 21-0 Birmingham banger Kal Yafai in possession of the WBA strap and formidable Filipino Jerwin Ancajas wearing the IBF belt. Conlan is frothing for an opportunity to get among them.
“I’ve been world rated for a wee while now so it’s a bit frustrating but you just have to keep focussing, set small short-term goals and then tick them off,” says the Danny Vaughan coached bill-topper who has been punching for pay since November 2009.
“I’ve not seen anything of Ancajas but he’s got a very impressive record [one loss in 28] and he beat a good champion [Puerto Rico’s previously undefeated McJoe Arroyo] to win the title. There’s noise that Naoya Inoue will be moving up to challenge the Japanese WBC bantamweight champion [Shinsuke Yamanaka] which could leave an opening for the vacant WBO title.
“But I leave it all to my team. They’re biding their time but I’ve every confidence they’ll deliver. I’m a strong believer in letting the fighter fight, the trainer train, the manager manage and the promoter promote. We all have our job to do.”
After 28 months on the road, the Mack the Knife managed star returned to his native city last November with a routine eight round shutout over Hungarian road runner David Koos at the Titanic Exhibition Centre. However, Friday’s assignment promises to be altogether more taxing.
“Last time, it was nice to keep busy but the camp was more beneficial than the fight. I’ve not even watched the tape back,” he says.
“I just kept on the jab and listened to the corner, ticked the boxes Danny [Vaughan] wanted me to tick. Now I’ve got a proper fight and I have to show improvement.
“I boxed at The Waterfront previously on a [Carl] Frampton undercard and it’s a brilliant atmosphere. The crowd’s roar echoes back to you, like an opera or orchestra.”
Opponent Cardoza, a 28 year old from the fine fighting nation that has given us Alexis Arguello, Ricardo Mayorga and Roman Gonzalez, is a veteran of 33 starts across an eight year career that peaked with a May 2013 challenge for the WBC light-flyweight title.
“I’ve watched him on tape and he’s relentless; far more Ricardo Mayorga than Arguello or ‘Chocolalito’,” assesses Conlan.
“His record suggests he’s not the biggest puncher but he throws some wicked shots. He’s very tough and quite unpredictable; dirty with his head and elbows. I’m expecting an exciting fight but I’ve got to stick to my game plan.
“But to remain relevant, to keep in the thoughts and words of the fans and media, I have to shine. There’s a very strong undercard but mine should still be the fight to stand out. Expect controlled fireworks!”