EXCLUSIVE Michael Conlan: ‘The feeling of it, being part of something that was bigger than sport’

Michael Conlan
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Michael Conlan has just halted Nicola Cipolletta in Las Vegas. He speaks to John Dennen about his next fight, the Olympic dream and more

How was it in Las Vegas?

It was good, it was different. It was the first time I boxed in Vegas and I enjoyed it. [Normally I’ve been] the main event kind of guy and it’s tough. So the fact that it was low key, I was under the radar, it was perfect.

Must have been very different to the one before, when you were main event in your hometown?

That was good because I was the main event, I was having to do media. But I was able to go home, to my own house and chill.

Were you pleased with how you boxed against [Adeilson] Dos Santos in Belfast?

When I look back on it, I see an awful lot of mistakes in there. I could have done a lot better.

With Adam [Booth] what we’ve been working on in the gym is starting to click. I’ll be honest, I felt a lot of pressure in Belfast so I kind of went back to what I know, people revert to what they know… Even though that worked, I felt there were things I wanted to do in the ring that I wasn’t able to do because I reverted back to my old natural self.

That must have been the first time you’d boxed in Belfast for a while?

I think the last time before that was 2010, so it was a long time. I was feeling the pressure. I was main event at the Odyssey and I’ve been to the Odyssey so many times. So many fighters have won big fights there in Belfast. Every big fight they’ve had in Belfast has been at the Odyssey. The fact that I was main event there, the first time I was boxing at home in a long time, the first I’ve boxed there as a professional, main eventing at the arena, no matter what I say, I don’t get too nervous, but I felt on fight night I let nerves get to me more than they usually do. But it’s good, it’s another box ticked so early on in my career when I go back I know how it’s going to be.

Did you expect to be doing all this so soon, having your debut at Madison Square Garden and so on?

I’m not going to say I couldn’t imagine it, because I could. It’s what I expected as a pro. When I first spoke about this stuff, my brother Jamie, he would have laughed at me and said there’s no chance doing that stuff so early on in your career. But it’s happened.

It’s happened that way but at the same time it’s exceeded my expectations. I’m overwhelmed with how it’s went but at the same time, I expected it.

Michael Conlan

At the Olympics [Conlan was the victim of a notorious decision at Rio 2016], you said you were going to go on and have a great career, and that’s what’s happening.

It’s funny how things work out. I was saying everything happens for a reason and it does. You do create your own future. I believe what’s happened has happened, but I created it myself with how I reacted in Rio, how I pushed myself and built myself as a pro early on.

I do believe I’m going to be a three weight world champion and have a successful career.

Olympic boxing is in a very difficult place [it could lose its place an Olympic sport, read more HERE], how important were the Olympics to you?

It was very, very important to me and to every amateur boxer. The only reason I stayed amateur was to try to get that Olympic gold medal. Once I got bronze [at London 2012] it made my career and it propelled my ability and how I boxed. Once I won a medal everything accelerated, I got better, I got more confident. I won more medals and became the best in the world, World champion, European champion, Commonwealth champion. That all stemmed from my first major medal, which was my Olympic bronze medal. The feeling of it, being part of something which was bigger than sport. If anything it was bigger than sport itself. Being a part of that atmosphere and being a part of everybody else’s journey who was there, it was a special feeling.

The only thing I ever really wanted to be as an amateur was Olympic champion. [Not] European champion, Commonwealth champion or World champion [although he was all of those things]. It was Olympic champion. That is the pinnacle of amateur boxing. I see many people who have done it and you can’t help but be happy for them. They’re always going to be remembered as Olympic gold medallists. That’s a special thing. Even the likes of Ray Leonard, Ray Leonard cherishes his Olympic gold medal more than anything. [Vasyl] Lomachenko is the same. It was his most special feeling the day he won his first Olympics.

It’s a special thing… I don’t think it will happen [boxing being expelled from the Olympics], but I hope it definitely doesn’t happen.

How much are you looking forward to your next fight, in Manchester (December 22) on the Carl Frampton bill?

Paddy [Barnes] is on the card as well so it’ll be the first time I’ve been on the same card as Paddy since Rio and the first time boxing on the same card as Carl. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m due a big step up in class for some sort of title over 10 rounds. I’m excited. The first time I’ve boxed in Manchester ever, the first time I’ll have boxed in England since 2012. It’s something I’m looking forward to.

What do you think of Frampton, once maybe a while ago you might have seen him as a potential opponent down the line, but now do you not see your paths crossing in that way?

If you can achieve half of what Carl Frampton’s achieved, you’re a very successful fighter. He’s definitely someone I look up to, he’s definitely someone I pay attention to and love to watch as a fan and as a fighter. I have great respect for him and I’m looking forward to seeing him do the business on December 22… With me and Carl, we’re good friends.

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