The Top Rank starlet boxes Jason Cunningham on the Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton undercard at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night.
Conlan steps up to ten rounds on the BT Sport Box Office bill but Yorkshire’s Cunningham doesn’t necessarily represent a step-up in terms of opposition.
The Belfast featherweight took on recent world title challenger Adeilson Dos Santos in his Belfast homecoming during the summer but Conlan acknowledges the importance of profile and interest and feels Cunningham offers this despite the fact he will be a big favourite even with betting bonus codes.
A veteran of eight domestic title fights ranging from super flyweight to featherweight, 29-year-old Cunningham [24(6)-5(1)] should present Conlan with a durable and ambitious foe and one that could enable the Irishman to look impressive.
The Donacaster southpaw won the English bantamweight title versus Scott Gladwin back in 2014 before losing to Ross Burkinshaw on a split for the Commonwealth belt. He would win the strap at the second attempt the following year versus Nasibu Ramadhan and, around this time, was being mooted as a potential opponent for Conlan’s now-stablemate Ryan Burnett.
Instead of Burnett, Cunningham would drop to super fly where he was outpointed by future world champion Kal Yafai for the British title. Returning to bantamweight, he would outpoint Ashley Lane to reclaim the English title before jumping two weights to claim another Commonwealth belt with a big upset win over Ben Jones.
Cunningham then put the rainbow belt on the line versus Matchroom starlet Reece Bellotti and was winning the fight before being stopped in the sixth. A loss to recently crowned British featherweight champ Jordan Gill followed before Cunningham got back to winning ways with a Central Area super bantamweight title triumph versus Paul Economides and he will now return to 126lbs to face Conlan.
While he feels he has beaten better already, 27-year-old Conlan is not overlooking Cunningham ahead of what, he plans, will be a big 2019.
Speaking on TalkSport, the Olympic bronze medallist outlined how “Jason is a tough character, he comes from the same kind of background as me, a working class background.”
“He doesn’t lie down, he’s not coming just to get a pay cheque”
“He’ll have probably had a hard time camp with it being so close to Christmas.”
“He honestly is going to go in there thinking he can win. I know he’s going to be coming for the victory.”
Conlan, who is well aware of the business of boxing, also appreciates Cunningham’s familiarity on the domestic scene.
The 2015 World Amateur champ noted how “for me, it’s great because it’s a known face on British and Irish television and for me to have a known opponent, for those kind of guys [fans], helps springboard the fanbase.”