by Kevin Byrne
PROMISING flyweight Michael Conlan is the latest in a long line of Belfast little ‘uns ready to deliver on the big stage.
The 19-year-old enters his first World Championships in Baku this week on quite possibly the strongest ever Irish squad sent abroad to compete.
There are three European gold medallists and and Olympic silver medallist in the mix, and being a team-mate of them gives Conlan plenty of confidence.
But being brother to aspiring pro – and simply getting out of a tough division in Ireland – does much of the same.
Anyone who saw his clashes with Ryson’s Chris Phelan – another big talent at 52kg – in the seniors and then the open tournament will testify to his talent.
He can dig deep too when required, after entering the final round of that national final with Phelan behind on points.
Conlan said: “It’s harder to get out of Ireland than to get a medal anywhere, perform anywhere. If you can perform in Ireland you can perform all over the world.I believe this year is a big year for me.”
Conlan beat Team GB’s medal hope Khalif Yafai at the European seniors earlier this summer 19-10, before going out in the quarter final – one successful bout from a medal – 26-20 in a thriller against Italian Olympic bronze medallist Vincenzo Picardi.
But the message is clear now from Conlan, who reckons he is ready for anyone.
He said: “I don’t care who I’m drawn against – if I perform out there I’ll beat anybody. If I get drawn against the Cuban, the Russian, Azerbaijan – I know I can beat them. It’s all on the day.
“Training with my brother, it’s brilliant that he’s a professional because he’s bringing me on all the time. Looking at his style, we use a tight guard and it’s more of a professional style now I think.
“If I perform, anything’s possible. Olympic qualification is definitely the main goal.”