On Thursday in New York, Mick Conlan stepped off the scales and went eyeball to eyeball with Tim Ibarra.
The debutant thought he was getting the chance to size up his opponent, and see if he could smell fear, force his first ever pro foe to glance away, and gain some advantage by getting into the American’s head before their St Patrick’s Day clash.
However, according to brother Jamie Conlan [19(11)-0], a super flyweight World title hopeful, his younger sibling need not have worried about any weigh-in antics. ‘The Mexican’ is adamant the two-time Olympian wasn’t fighting Ibarra on Friday last, but was going toe-to-toe with pressure.
If he battered a relatively strong first time foe in Ibarra into submission, the Belfast fighter went full German come major tournament penalty shootout time and sent pressure the wrong way and found the back of the net with a fitting olé olé olé backdrop.
“The fight was never about the opponent, it was about him dealing with the pressure and dealing with such a enormous occasion, and he passed that with flying colours,” Jamie Conlan told Irish-boxing.com after taking some time to reflect on a groundbreaking weekend for Irish boxing.
Pressure is for tyres quipped the 25 year old in the build up to his debut, although others were full of the ‘no pressure, no diamonds’ adage during fight week.
True Conlan [1(1)-0] has that confident air that suggests, like most big stars, he feels so at home on the big stage that he had his slipper-clad feet up ahead of a big occasion.
However, when it comes to boxing debuts and pressure, even a World Cup final sudden-death spot kick couldn’t compare.
This was unprecedented. A million miles away from his brother’s swing bout debut on a big Belfast card, 10 million miles away from your average first foray through the ropes down the card of a small hall show populated by the hardcore fans and your close knit family.
This was unheralded. This was New York on St Patrick’s Day. This was a bill-topping fight over six rounds on a Top Rank card at the Mecca of Boxing.
The media demand was nearly akin to that of the Gennady Golovkin and Danny Jacobs World title fight that took place the day after. Conlan’s face flashed superstar-like across Time Square in the week leading up to the fight. It was something only a special kind of character could deal with suggests a brother who, considering he admits he is more nervous for his brother’s fights than his own, must have been feeling it.
“It’s a lot of pressure to be on the shoulders of someone making a debut. Everyone’s debut comes with its own pressures and worries. You’re entering an unknown territory in front of bigger numbers of onlookers than you are used to as an amateur so to perform in that kind of pressure cooker takes a special kind of fighter.”
It seems Top Rank believe Conlan is just that ‘special’. They went all out on the event and Jamie believes it shows the faith they have in his brother. Indeed, upon reflection of the ‘unheard of’ debut build up, he suggests they are confident the Belfast fighter will make serious boxing noise over the coming years.
“Top Rank really showed how much they value Mick with the build up and production they put into him.”
“My debut I was a four round swing bout at the Odyssey arena on the undercard of Rogie v Sexton and I was lucky enough to get on just before the main event. I remember thinking ‘wow’ when walking through the tunnel at the entrance and could hear all the people stamping and banging above me.”
“But for Mick, this was a six-round debut topping the bill in MSG. Not just that, he was everywhere you looked in New York; on morning TV shows, on the screens outside MSG, photo shoots in Times Square. The hype is unheard of for anyone in the past 20 odd years since De La Hoya.”
No doubt the boxing Conlan clan which, almost fittingly, has its roots in a Phoenix Park St Patrick’s Day meeting of their parents, will appreciate the significance of the hype and fanfare surrounding the debut. However, as a fight-educated family, the focus will now shift to more important matters – the performance.
“As a performance, I know Mick will demand perfection so he won’t be overly happy with it,” the Commonwealth champion continued.
“I thought, in the lead up, that’s exactly how it would go, one or two rounds to get into it and then turn on his class and get him out. He hadn’t been under them lights since Rio so his timing, distance, and range was always going take a round or two to find, especially when someone is unwilling to engage.”
“But, when I re-watched it back, I was more happy and impressed. His shot selection was good and the ability to switch head and body was good.”
“In saying that, I know what he can do and how much he demands from himself so I only mainly see the things he can improve on and, now the first one is out of the way, he can do that.”