23 April 2010 – By Steve Wellings
In 1998 ever-popular Damaen Kelly won the Commonwealth flyweight belt in only his eighth contest. It is no secret that the lower weight fighters get moved on a little quicker than most due to the sparseness of their talent pool compared to the heavier boys.
Another West Belfast favourite, 23-year-old Jamie Conlan, is on course to emulate Kellys achievements and snare domestic titles for his own keeping. If all goes to plan, Conlan will be in line to challenge for the Irish flyweight title in only his third bout.
Im hoping to get an opponent for the Irish title on June 4 or June 11, whenever Paul McCloskey defends his European title, revealed Jamie.
Some names have been mentioned but whoever it is Im looking forward to fighting for that belt. Im training hard for whomever and worrying about what Im going to do on the night, not my opponent.
If Kieran Farrell can get into the mix then that would be good too. He boxed my young brother and if we fought I think it would be a good scrap.
Conlan recently enjoyed a trip to France, alongside Paul Hyland, sparring Malik Bouziane and Jamie held his own in esteemed company.
I was out sparring Bouziane for a week and it wasnt as big of a step-up as I thought it would be, said Conlan.
Bouziane didnt have a punch at all and we were using 12oz gloves in sparring but he has a very high work rate and is a good 12-round fighter, you would have to work hard to beat him. They were impressed that I was a flyweight nobody had heard of and yet I came over to give him a tough time overall Bouziane was a really nice guy.
The sparring has slowed down a bit lately, he added, and Ive been doing pads with John Breen, although I would usually spar Andy Murray and my brother Michael when things are in full swing.
Jamie is fast becoming accustomed to the longer distances, not that he had much choice before his last contest in Dublins National Stadium.
It surprised me too when there was a knock on my dressing room door telling me it was going to be an eight-rounder! It did play on my mind a little bit and hampered my performance but Ill be ready next time.
Im working on fitness all the time to cope with the longer distances because last time I wasnt totally ready for more rounds, it was a strange feeling.
The exact date for Paul McCloskeys proposed fight with rugged Italian Guiseppe Lauri has yet to be confirmed, but this Belfast native is keen to secure a slot on the undercard.
There are two dates being mentioned for the McCloskey bill at the moment but either way, Ive been training flat-out in preparation. John was talking about me getting on the Lindsay bill in Belfast and hopefully I can get on to more of Brian Peters shows as well.
After pummelling the resistance out of journeyman Itsko Veselinov in the Stadium, Conlan proved that he can remain patient and grind down a stubborn survivor if needed.
Veselinov didnt like the body shots but he needed the win and showed a bit of resilience that I didnt think he had. I enjoyed the night but I could have performed better and will do next time.
If I cant get an Irish title shot then Im hoping for a six or eight-rounder. The training is going really well at the moment and I would like a run-out to test myself over the longer distances.
Jamie admits that he is open to fight any Irish rival for the title and hopes the big clashes can be made.
If I can get together with Luke Wilton, Kieran Farrell or whoever then we could fight each other two or three times, it would be great for Irish boxing. Theres no animosity, we can shake hands after the fight.
The flyweights are getting good coverage at the moment which is great.
As Conlan follows in the footsteps of Damaen Kelly, West Belfast could soon have another flyweight hero to enjoy.