Michael Conlan could appreciate his involvement in a fantastic “Fight of the Year” candidate if he had won.
Suffering his first professional defeat March 12, especially with a world title at stake, made it impossible for the proud, Belfast-based Conlan to take any satisfaction from his memorable performance against England’s Leigh Wood. Conlan led Wood on all three scorecards entering the 12th round of a fan-friendly battle, but Wood knocked him unconscious and out of the ring almost five months ago at Motorpoint Arena in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham.
Conlan (16-1, 8 KOs) will return to the ring Saturday night in at The SSE Arena Belfast, where the 2016 Olympian hopes to move beyond his devastating defeat to Wood by beating Colombian veteran Miguel Marriaga (30-5, 26 KOs) in a 12-round, 128-pound main event.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m following in my brother’s footsteps because every time he stepped in the ring it was possibly the fight of the year,” Conlan told BoxingScene.com. “You know, he was always in wars. But that wasn’t how I wanted it to go or how planned it to go. I would’ve rather it went quite comfortably and boring than be a fight of the year. If I’m gonna be straight with you, it doesn’t mean anything to me because I lost. If I would’ve won, it would’ve been better. But the fact that I lost, it won’t be one that I’m quick to go back and watch.”
The 30-year-old Conlan hasn’t had the desire to watch his war with Wood (26-2, 16 KOs), who caught Conlan with a right hand he didn’t see coming and sent him backward, through the middle ropes, toward the arena floor. Jamie Conlan, Michael’s older brother and manager, caught Conlan before the vulnerable boxer crashed to the floor, which helped him avoid suffering serious injuries from that frightening fall out of the ring.
Conlan dropped Wood during the first round, but Wood recovered to make their fight very competitive and knocked Conlan to the canvas in the 11th round. Conlan led Wood by scores of 105-102, 104-103 and 104-103 through 11 rounds, which makes their memorable brawl even tougher for him to watch.
“No, I haven’t watched it,” Conlan said. “I watched little clips in the immediate aftermath, you know, when I was in the hospital and I was calling for the rematch right away. But, you know, I think my brother, my father and my coach, they’ve all watched it. And, you know, my brother came and watched it recently, that fight, and he said it was unbelievable. Because he didn’t wanna watch it, either, but he said it was unbelievable and my performance was unbelievable.
“Some mistakes toward the end, which cost me, but he says it was amazing. You know, maybe after, once I can put it behind me, I’ll go back and watch it. That’s my goal on Saturday night, to go back and put this in my rearview mirror and get back to my winning ways.”
Caesars Sportsbook has installed Conlan as a 12-1 favorite versus Marriaga in a 12-round, 128-pound fight that’ll headline an ESPN+ stream scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET. Fite.tv will stream the Conlan-Marriaga card for £6.50 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where the show will begin at 8 p.m. BST.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.