Ireland’s Olympic stars will have their send-off ahead of the Rio Games on Friday night at the National Stadium with a test match against Russia.
The show is a brilliant opportunity for fans to see the boxers who will inevitably be bumping Ireland up the medals table in less than two months time
Ahead of the exciting night which will feature six Olympians alongside other elite Irish fighters, Irish-Boxing.com spoke to AIBA World Champion Mick Conlan.
The Belfast bantamweight returns to the ring following a cut at the Socikas Invitational tournament after a head-clash with Moldovan Veaceslav Goran.
A major talking-point in the World of Olympic boxing, Conlan is his laid-back self regarding the issue and told how the cut has healed “tremendously well,” and that “I’m not worried about cuts or head clashes in Rio.”
While unconfirmed, Conlan looks likely to be facing European Games gold medalist Bakhtovar Nazirov at the home of Irish boxing and admits that “I’m looking forward to getting into the big ring again – I haven’t lost in it since 2010 [a defeat in the Elite Seniors to Baldoyle’s Conor Ahern].”
With big promoters eyeing up the Rio gold medal favourite, Friday could be the last time that Conlan ever trades leather in the historic South Circular Road venue, but the 24 year old isn’t looking at it that way, suggesting that “I could possibly fight there as a pro so I’m not gonna say it will be my last.”
While he will be involved in heavy training camps and tough spars over the next few weeks, his test match on Friday will be Conlan’s final bout in front of a crowd before he steps into the ring in the Riocentro. When he gets to Brazil, Conlan will be faced by many top bantamweights, including 2012 conqueror Robeisy Ramirez who qualified in Baku last week, in what has been dubbed the most talent-filled division at the Games. The nature of the division only serves to fuel the driven Clonard fighter who explains that the quality of his opponents “gives me motivation to train harder as I know how tough my division is.”
“I don’t focus on any individual, I focus on myself and me performing as I know that’s what will win me fights!”
Conlan’s outlook is not traditional among Irish sportsmen, and one a bit unfamiliar to fans who are more accustomed to the heroic and gutsy underdog exemplified by the Irish football team who deservedly won plaudits for their performances in France at Euro 2016.
The Clonard man agrees, saying that “I definitely think that’s the attitude of most Irish sports – the underdog mentality – but if they believed in themselves more they’re half way there!”
The decorated fighter is part of a new breed of Irish athlete, born winners with the ability to support their confidence, and Conlan notes that “I think Irish sport has evolved so much in the last few years and we deserve to have the confidence we are showing!”
For Conlan, Olympic gold is “something I’ve dreamed of since I was a boy and to finally do it will be unbelievable.” Nevertheless, personal glory and achievement is not the only thing he craves, and feels that “to have the support of a nation behind you and cheering you on is special.”
“Just look how special it is when Pacquiao fights, I’d love to be like that one day!”
Ticket details for Ireland v Russia at the National Stadium:
Friday July 1st 2016
€5 for Children <14s
€10 for Adults
Tickets will be available on the door.
Doors Opening @ 6.30pm