By Frank Warren
THE SSE ARENA on Saturday will play host to Northern Ireland’s latest likely lad – the boxer most likely to pick up the Belfast baton from national treasure Carl Frampton in years to come.
Michael Conlan, the 2012 Olympic medallist and 2015 World amateur champion, fights for the first time as a professional in his native city, having clocked up seven convincing victories since switching codes in the aftermath of the 2016 robbery in Rio where he was cruelly denied his Olympic gold medal dream.
Conlan has been building his professional reputation Stateside- aside from a single voyage Down Under – and now he gets to realise his ambition of performing on the home front when he takes a step up in class against the 19-4 Adeilson Dos Santos from Brazil.
I am delighted to be staging his homecoming in association with my old friend Bob Arum and his Top Rank organisation.
It also provides yet another opportunity for the burgeoning crop of young Irish fighters to stake their claim for future stardom on such a massive platform.
The supporting acts for the Conlan premiere are second to none and probably the most intriguing fight of the night is the chief support where our own Jack Catterall puts his WBO Intercontinental super lightweight title on the line against Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna.
Jack had no hesitation inseizing the moment when McKenna’s original opponent, Phil Sutcliffe jr, was forced to withdraw through injury and, unusually in such circumstances, we now have a bigger fight on our hands.
It is a clash between two unbeaten 10 stoners with genuine world title aspirations. Jack’s last outing didn’t reach a satisfactory conclusion due to his opponent being unable to continue with a shoulder injury, so he was more than happy to step into the Belfast breach and put it all on the line against McKenna.
He could have sat tight and waitedfor an inevitable collision with Ohara Davies to come about, but Jack wants to be busy, to fight on the big stages and reachhis full potential against the best opponents possible.
The fight with Ohara is very much there for him, but he has now got a job to do first. Ohara looked the part with his explosive right hander against Paul Kamanga last week – now it is Jack’s turn to impress and make it fight that the public demand.
The boxing public always love a grudge match that hasbuilt up over time and that is what we have got when Jono Carroll and Declan Geraghty finally rematch after their epic encounter in 2014.
In the first Dublin derby, Geraghty was disqualified for use of the head in the fourth and final round after being two points up on the referee’s card at the end of the third.
A sense of injustice has simmered since and I’m sure we can expect a proper barnstormer with this one, with Carroll’s IBF Intercontinental super featherweight title on the line that he won so impressively on the Frampton Reborn card last November.
In other battles between unbeaten fighters, Joe Ham (14-0) and Tyrone McCullagh(10-0) compete for the vacant Celtic super bantamweight title, with Lewis Benson (10-0) and Johnny Coyle (18-0-1) also taking the plunge.
I am also looking forward to witnessing the next of Lewis Crocker’s career – withthe 5-0 welterweight having been tipped for big things by Carl Frampton – and also Sunny Edwards, who I know is desperate to be involved in big fights and soon will be.
It is going to be quite a night and you can see it all unfold live on BT Sport and BoxNation from 7.30pm on Saturday.