Making his return to Madison Square Garden – and fighting in the ‘big room’ for the first time – the Belfast featherweight cruised to an eight-round triumph over Ibon Larrinaga
With a headline date in his home city already set for the end of next month, Conlan needed to first get past the challenge of the Basque fighter in what was one of the chief support bouts on the Jorge Linares v Vasyl Lomachenko lightweight world title undercard.
Sporting a New York Knicks vest on his ringwalk, there was a sizeable pocket of support for the 2015 World Amateur champion in the 20,000-seater arena and he claimed both a crucial victory and a solid work-out on the Top Rank card at the Mecca of Boxing.
On paper, Larrinaga looked to be the Olympic bronze medalist’s toughest test to date but offered little attacking threat tonight – albeit providing an extremely durable foe.
The fight was Conlan’s second with Adam Booth as coach and ‘The Dark Lord’ was joined in the corner by former middleweight champ Andy Lee.
Conlan began patiently, working off the jab and moving his upper body well to evade Larrinaga’s opening attacks. After a minute, a big right hand from the Irishman stiffened Larrinaga’s legs before he sent in a sharp uppercut. The heavy shots seemed to give pause to the Spaniard who remained on the retreat for the rest of round one.
The Falls Road 26-year-old began to target the body at the start of the second, sitting don on his punches more as Larrinaga struggled to cope.
Larrinaga, who had came into the bout full of confidence, began to throw more in the third but it was Conlan, with new-found opportunities to counter, who remained on the offensive as the bout began to open up.
Stalking with the jab, it was one-way traffic for Conlan in the fourth round and he wobbled Larrinaga with an overhand right before tossing the Iberian to the canvas, no knockdown ruled.
Switching southpaw and back, Conlan started to make real headway in the fifth, landing heavy left hooks and straight rights on 27-year-old Larrinaga who looked like he was beginning to lag.
A short southpaw hook stunned Larrinaga at the start of the sixth and the away fighter was in full survival mode from here, throwing negligible amounts as Conlan pressed, looking for the knockout blow.
Entering the seventh round for the first time in his career, Conlan continued to cruise, letting go with combinations whenever he managed to get into range.
Rounding out the fight, Conlan would ease through the final round, briefly unloading in the closing ten seconds as he went the distance for the second time in his pro career.
Going to the cards with absolutely no doubt, Conlan was declared the winner with a trio of 80-72 ledgers.
The win sees Conlan move to [7(5)-0] while the tough Larrinaga drops to [10(2)-2(1)].
Next up for Conlan – assuming a minor mouse under his left eye is no issue – will be his big homecoming on Saturday June 30th at the SSE Odyssey Arena. Here he will take a massive step-up versus recent world title challenger Adeilson Dos Santos.