Michael Conlan makes his return to the ring on Saturday night merely five months after suffering a knockout so dramatic that some feared he had been killed. But a long layoff for Conlan was never really an option. He still has a dream of being a world champion and, at 30, has no time to waste. 

The Irishman has a tough return as he faces Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast. Having come so close to taking the WBA featherweight title from Leigh Wood in Nottingham last time, he is eager to be back in that kind of class as soon as possible. 

“A lot of fighters would take a lot of time out and say they need to recover,” he said. “I need to stay active. A loss is not going to define me, I won’t let it. The worst thing I could do is sit and wait.  

“People soon forget. I’m in a good position still. What happened was one punch changed the fight. I know for me to get back in that position I need to have a good fight, a hard fight and a credible opponent. 

“I’m in this to make as much money as I can and win as many belts as I can.” 

That Conlan is able to box at all will be a relief to many, who were alarmed at the manner of his defeat to Wood, as he fell unconscious head first from the ring after being knocked out in the last round. 

“People thought I was dead, there was such a big show made about it,” he said. “But I was awake on the ground. 

“It’s boxing, people get knocked out. That was the first time in my life I have ever been knocked out. The most hurt thing was my ego.” 

It had been a grueling affair, but Conlan had always seemed to have the upper hand after knocking Wood down at the end of the first round. But in the eleventh round, Conlan was on the floor and he was exhausted. 

“Going out for the twelfth round. I was f-----,” he said. “I was so tired because I had expended so much energy in the eleventh beating the life out of Leigh. 

“[In the eleventh] I slipped, but he landed a punch and they had to count it as a knockdown and that gave him a second wind, because he was f----- too. And then we came out for the twelfth and he had that confidence going through him. He got the job done, so credit to him.” 

It took time for Conlan to piece together what happened. 

“I have only watched bits of it and when you are knocked out, you don’t remember,” he said. “It wasn’t his power, it was more exhaustion and it was more an arm punch [that finished it].  

“You are concussed so you do lose memory. I remember going out for the twelfth and then it’s vague. I remember being tired and then being in close and going back to the ropes and doing some stupid defensive moves instead of just doing down and under. 

“I remember I was up on the floor because my father said he was trying to get the oxygen mask off so he could take out the gumshield. 

“I remember being on the stretcher going out and I saw my brother (not Jamie) and he said “What happened, did you lose? Was it bad?’ And I said ‘We’ll talk about it later’.” 

There was plenty of concern as to Conlan’s condition. And Conlan was particularly grateful to Liam Smith, the former WBO super-welterweight champion, for making sure his family were kept informed of what was going on. 

“My missus and family were really upset,” Conlan said. “When I was out, Liam went over to my mother to comfort her. She wasn’t in a panic, she understands boxing, but he said he wanted to make sure she was OK.  

“He said I know if something happened to me someone would think to look out for the family. It shows what kind of a man he is doing that.” 

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.