NEW YORK’S Madison Square Garden Theater was shaking to the sound of raucous Irishman last night (Friday March 17 – Saint Patrick’s Day) as Belfast’s Michael Conlan made his professional debut against Denver’s Tim Ibarra. It took the former Irish amateur star just three rounds to secure his first victory in the paid ranks, with a flurry of hooks leading the referee to step in and save Ibarra from further punishment.
Reflecting on his opening pro win afterwards, Conlan admitted that having a lively sell-out crowd of 5,102 supporting him on his debut was something that he never could have imagined.
“I was relaxed coming into the ring, but when you get in there, you just want to impress and perform – I just wanted the knockout victory,” Michael stated. “I wasn’t nervous about my opponent, I was more nervous about myself. Not many people have this type of pressure put on them on their pro debut. There was a lot of expectation on me. It was something I’d never experienced before. If I go on to fight for a world title in the future, I can say that I’ve already experienced a world title-type atmosphere. The atmosphere was crazy.”
Conlan continued: “[The event] was bigger than I expected. Some guys don’t get this type of atmosphere for a world title fight. It was a debut that you couldn’t have ever dreamed of. I mean, who has a crowd like this on their debut? Who has a superstar like Conor McGregor carry the Irish flag for them? Who has Niall [Horan] from One Direction come to support them? Everyone had been out all day drinking to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, and they were ready to cheer on their fellow Irishman. I’m thankful for the crowd, because they pushed me on and pushed me through it.”
Conlan confessed that he was a little too eager to please his large band of vocal followers, but was nonetheless content with the outcome in the end. He said: “After the first 10 seconds, I realised that this guy had nothing to hurt me. So I got a bit reckless and was throwing stupid punches at times. In the first two rounds I was trying to find my distance, but I’m happy with how things went at the finish.”
It was revealed by Conlan’s promoter – Bob Arum of Top Rank – that the popular super-bantamweight will next perform on either May 12 or May 19, likely in Boston. The news went down well with Michael, who is looking forward to the break: “That’s perfect because now tonight I can go and eat some s**t and drink some beer! All I want now is some pizza, some doughnuts and some hot wings! It’s as simple as that!”