Michael Conlan [13(7)-0] looks set to take a sizable step up when he returns to the ring on St Patrick’s Day.
Talks with Hiroshige Osawa [36(21)-5(2)-4] have reached an advanced stage and the Japanese fighter, who is seen as a world title stepping stone, could be confirmed as the Belfast talents opponent in the coming weeks.
Having progressed his way up the rankings since turning two years ago and laying the ghost of Rio completely to rest with victory over Vladimir Nikitin in December, it’s operation world title for Conlan now.
It has been suggested that the Belfast featherweight could be just one good win away from a world tilt.
The plan for March appears to secure a win over the kind of opponent that would cement the World Championship gold medal winner’s world title challenging credentials.
That would mean a big step up and test on Conlan’s annual St Patrick’s Day fight night in New York before a massive potential Feile hosted world title fight in August.
Names like Iasac Dogboe and recent sparring partner Kiko Martinez have been muted potential step up foes in recent times, but it’s believed Osawa is close to becoming the confirmed Paddy’s Day foe.
The Japanese certainly represents an upgrade in terms of opponent. He is currently #1 in the WBA rankings, a governing body that boasts Leo Santa Cruz as super champion despite the fact he has moved to super feather and has Can Xu as their regular belt holder.
The 34-year-old has also worked with Top Rank before when he challenged Oscar Valdez for the WBO world title in late 2016.
The Osaka native has won numerous Asian titles and boasts a solid record with 21 stoppage wins to his name.
He has won six out of seven since his defeat to Valdez and worked his way back up the ladder. The Japanese fighter certainly would represent a step up in experience and quality for Conlan, but it’s the kind of step up he has been calling for.
Conlan is currently ranked #1 with the WBO at 126lbs. The reigning champion is fellow Top Rank fighter and fellow 2016 Olympian Shakur Stevenson. The American, who is in talks to fight Josh Warrington in and around May, is rumoured to be on the verge of moving up in weight.
If that is the case and Stevenson beats the Leeds native a vacant title could be up for grabs in Belfast in August. If Warrington wins that is certainly a world title fight that could be made and if Stevenson wins and remains at the weight that’s another mouthwatering previously muted clash.