By Shaun Brown
Paul Butler’s recent world title win at bantamweight may have opened the door for his former rivals at super flyweight to follow suit in the future but for Northern Ireland’s Jamie Conlan that jump up can wait for now.
The unbeaten Conlan 11-0 (7) hits the dozen mark for professional contests this Friday night against Gabor Molnar 15-5 (10) as part of the ‘The Waterfront Brawl’ show in Belfast, promoted by Cyclone Promotions. The ten-round contest will be Conlan’s first defence of his WBO European super flyweight title (which he won in April) but like Butler did, he wants the taste of domestic success and more demanding foreign tests before venturing from 8st 3lbs to 8st 6lbs.
“There’s not a huge amount of fights at super fly which you can get at bantamweight. Lee Haskins, Stuart Hall and Jamie McDonnell are all there but I’d like to get some more experience first at super fly like Butler did against Mexican fighters and the few 12 rounders he had to build him up. So hopefully I’ll get that experience first and then jump up.”
Conlan aims to be the British champion at 115lbs by the time Belfast has rocked to the sounds of Carl Frampton and Kiko Martinez on Sep 6 in Belfast. And the fighter who’s nicknamed ‘The Mexican’ thanks to his resemblance of former world champion Antonio Margaritio can’t help but look ahead to a show that could be a night to remember for boxing in his homeland.
“I’m already getting excited about it,” said Conlan. “I did have plans with my brother (Michael) who will be fighting in the Commonwealth games in Glasgow. I had planned to go over and stay like I did for the London Olympics but now those plans will have to go on the back burner because I’ll be in training for Sept. I can’t wait. A wee buzz was there for me when I was watching Froch vs. Groves because of that big outdoors fight feel. It’s something similar but it’ll be on a smaller scale on our doorstep and I’ll be a part of it.”
Speak to any Northern Irish fighter and they’ll tell you that Carl Frampton has Belfast on cloud nine thanks to his recent successes. ‘The Jackal’ has helped to put his city and its fighters on the boxing map once again and the natives can’t get enough. Conlan told ‘Scene that it’s all the locals seem to talk about nowadays!
“I’m not joking I can’t walk down the street without their being someone wanting to talk boxing. It’s amazing. I don’t think if you went to towns in England you’d get people talking about boxing much as they do here. There’s a buzz in the air and even more when there’s a big fight on. People are already talking about September, it’s a buzz and it’s a great boxing city. If you’re not from Belfast but you fight over here you will be applauded and appreciated. George Groves fought and won on the Martin Lindsay-Paul Appleby bill (in 2009) and you could see people standing and clapping because they appreciate it. It’s a critical crowd but it’s good because they know a good fighter from a bad fighter.”
With Frampton and Barry McGugian’s Cyclone Promotions making significant strides in British and Irish boxing the knock on effect for fighters is all positive for Conlan, Marco McCullough and Conrad Cummings (who also appear on Fri’s show). Regular fights plus the welcome dilemma of either chasing domestic titles or focusing on his significant top ten ranking with the WBO means the Conlan smile is hard to remove.
“I’m happy since Cyclone Promotions have come in,” he remarked.
“At the start of my career I had no promoter or nothing because in Belfast they’re sparse and it was hard to get on any show. I did a few dates with Frank Maloney and then Eddie Hearn was over so I had spots on his shows. So it was slow to start with but we’re picking up now.”
‘Scene asked Conlan if, despite his inexperience, attention would be on improving his world ranking or would he hold himself back?
“That’s a good question,” he answered. “I could say I’m ready for this and that and to step up but it’s up to my trainer and manager, John Breen and Cyclone Promotions. Every fighter if they get offered to fight for another belt would jump at it but you need the matchmaker to match you right and pick the right fights at the right time for you.”
And no matter who the opponent is you can be sure that Conlan, his corner of Breen and Eamonn Magee as well as his growing fanbase will wear their now trademark sombreros thanks to his nickname.
“It started with John Breen and a local reporter who both said that I looked like a Mexican and like Tony Margarito and in sparring I fight like him at times apparently. I never called myself ‘The Mexican’ but I went along with it because the lads called me it. It stuck for a wee bit and it caught on.”
Conlan was also quick to point out, with a large amount of laughter as well, that Breen and Magee are more than keen to wear the wide-brimmed hats despite what their body language might suggest during ring walks.
“It’s John that makes sure we wear them! I didn’t think John Breen was gonna want to wear one of them but him and Magee are the first ones to wear the sombreros. The lads have jumped on board and because I sell a good number of tickets and I know some of the guys that come to the shows they actually try and get their own to bring with them to the fights. It’s a party piece for a night out and with a few beers they’ll throw them on.”
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