Yes, Top Rank signing his Olympic rival Vladimir Nikitin for the purposes of a pro rematch is a bit hammy, but there is a genuine need for Conlan to settle a score.
So much so, the Belfast featherweight has identified the Russian as his primary target before moving on to world level.
Conlan [10(6)-0] is thinking titles in 2020 but claims he has to get Nikitin ‘off the chest’ first.
It’s not that his fellow Top Rank fighter, who is currently 2-0 and has not set the world alight thus far, is a gateway to bigger bouts – it’s purely a personal Rio revenge mission Conlan.
It looks like the former amateur world champion will get the chance avenge his 2016 Olympic defeat on a massive stage at the Féile an Phobail in Belfast this Summer, but first has to hope both fighters come through St Patrick’s Day bouts in New York.
Conlan boxes Ruben Garcia Hernandez [24(10)-3(1)-2] over ten while Nikitin is in against Juan Tapia [8(3)-2(0)] over six.
“I feel that’s one I need to get off the chest and once I get that one out of the way I can continue on, and start to move on to bigger and better things,” Conlan told Pundit Arena ahead of his headline slot at The Theater at Madison Square Garden this Sunday.
“I feel that the fight that I need for myself is the Nikitin fight but I’m obviously focused on Ruben Garcia Hernandez. My short term goal is the Nikitin fight in Belfast.”
It has yet to be officially announced, as both have at least one more bout to get through, but there is a strong suggestion that Nikitin will provide the opposition for Conlan’s annual Belfast Summer homecoming.
The talk is of a massive bout on the Adam Booth trained fighters doorstep in the Falls Park and, while elements will no doubt be cheesy, it will be an important career moment for Conlan.
The 27-year-old admits it’s a clash he has asked for and the Russian has been expressed a desire to fight his former amateur opponent in recent interviews.
Conlan outlined how “that’s basically in the works now for Belfast this year. That’s been the talk and that’s what I’ve asked for.”
“It’s going in that direction as long as no one gets injured. Or he doesn’t slip up and lose in the meantime, it should happen in Belfast this summer,” he added before hinting at a possible interim fight beforehand as he continues to build his record.
“If we both win, I might have to fight in May again and then it should be August in Belfast.”