Michael Conlan delivered the most impressive performance of his career seven months ago on the biggest stage and against his most accomplished opponent.
Conlan mostly dominated TJ Doheny during their 12-round featherweight fight August 6 at historic Falls Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Conlan’s hometown. The 2016 Irish Olympian dropped Doheny with a body shot during the fifth round and beat the former IBF junior featherweight champion comfortably on all three scorecards (119-108, 116-111, 116-111).
The 30-year-old Conlan’s win earned him the WBA interim featherweight title, which that embattled sanctioning organization eliminated later in August. It also secured Conlan’s shot at newly crowned WBA world 126-pound champion Leigh Wood on Saturday night at Nottingham Arena in Nottingham, England, Wood’s hometown.
Conlan (16-0, 8 KOs) acknowledged that defeating Doheny (22-3, 16 KOs) so thoroughly enhanced his confidence “massively” in advance of his shot at Wood’s title.
“You know, how I handled TJ, who was thought to be a tough opponent, someone who was gonna test me to a high limit, you know, I thought I just controlled him,” Conlan told BoxingScene.com. “He could not lay gloves on me, really. And he even said I was hurting him with every shot I was throwing. That’s done wonders for my confidence, even though I’m already a confident guy. It helped a lot because he’s a world-class opponent and I handled him like he wasn’t.”
The 33-year-old Wood will make the first defense of a title he surprisingly won from China’s Can Xu a week before Conlan conquered Doheny. The hard-hitting Wood (25-2, 15 KOs) dropped Xu (18-3, 3 KOs) late in the 12th round of a fight Wood was winning on all three scorecards and took the WBA’s secondary featherweight title July 31 at Matchroom Boxing’s headquarters in Brentwood, England.
DAZN will stream Wood-Conlan as the main event of a show scheduled to start Saturday at 7 p.m. GMT (2 p.m. ET). Caesars Sportsbook has established Conlan as slightly less than a 2-1 favorite.
“This is the biggest moment of my sporting career so far,” Conlan said. “This is me getting to that king of the mountaintop. And then I’ve gotta stay there to claim the next mountaintop. But it’s massive. I’m really excited about it. I’ve had a perfect training camp. I’m the most confident I’ve ever been entering a fight. I’m coming into Nottingham here, England, with a siege mentality, to take over and rip that belt away from him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.