ON July 2nd, the eyes of the boxing world will be cast towards Brisbane, Australia as Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao makes the first defence of his WBO welterweight title.
Following 11 months out since his defeat to Floyd Mayweather, the eight-division world champion returned to the ring in April last year to comfortably outpoint Timothy Bradley in their third meeting.
After a short-lived retirement he then easily dispatched Jessie Vargas to claim the WBO crown and is next set to collide with Australian Jeff Horn in front of an expected 55,000 fans at the Suncorp Stadium.
As well as this being ‘Pacman’s’ latest stop off on a supposed world tour, the fight carries further significance as it will be the first to be broadcast live on ESPN as part of Top Rank’s new deal.
Despite this being the inaugural Pacquiao fight to be shown live for free in the United States and his first non pay-per-view since stopping Hector Velazquez in September 2005, there’s one fighter hoping to steal the spotlight from the headliner.
Ireland’s Michael Conlan has become an instant hit on American soil since signing with Bob Arum’s Top Rank following his controversial 2016 Olympic Games exploits.
After being robbed of the chance to edge further towards a second Olympic medal in Brazil, Conlan turned his focus to the professional game and is now preparing to make his third outing in the paid ranks.
The 25-year-old enjoyed a dream debut, as he was accompanied by Conor McGregor into the ring as the headline act on St Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden before stopping Tim Ibarra.
Belfast’s talented super-bantamweight then followed that up with a second stoppage success over Mexican Alfredo Chanez, on a night he was once again the top draw at the UIC Pavilion.
Next up on the Pacquiao-Horn card for Conlan is Australian Jarrett Owen, a fighter that the Irishman is expecting a tougher test from on his home patch.
“I’m expecting him to come out and give it a go and try to cause an upset,” Conlan told Boxing News.
“One hundred per cent I’m expecting a tougher challenge than I got from Chanez.”
With the main focus on July 2nd set to be on Pacquiao in his latest outing against Australia’s home hope Horn, Conlan has the added benefit of less pressure being on his shoulders for his trip Down Under.
The highly-rated Top Rank prospect has been the star attraction in his first two pro appearances, but is now looking forward to simply enjoying himself and showcasing his true credentials.
“Yes I’m looking forward to it! It has been fantastic being the main event for my first two pro fights but for this one I can just go and enjoy myself and not have that added pressure,” he stated.
“Yes [there’s less pressure]. I don’t think I’ve performed to even half my ability yet. So I’m looking forward to showing the boxing world what I’m about.”