Michael Conlan [13(7)-0] will be handed the step up he has been looking for when he fights in Madison Square Garden on March 17.
The Belfast fighter will trade leather with Belmar Preciado [20(13)-2(1)-1] on top of the Top Rank card according to the well sourced ESPN journalist Dan Rafael.
Names like Kiko Martinez, Isac Dogboe and Hiroshige Osawa have all been recently linked to the talented Belfast featherweight and earlier today the name of dangerous puncher Oscar Escandon was floating around.
However, it now appears Escandon’s fellow Colombian Preciado will man the away corner of Conlan’s annual New York night.
The 31-year-old isn’t as high profile as the aforementioned, hasn’t mixed in the same kind of company as them, nor does he have similar rankings, but remains an upgrade.
Preciado has only lost twice in 23 fights and one of those defeats came against former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa, who was one of the strongest names initially linked to Conlan.
Speaking on social media Rafeal confirmed : “Per source, unbeaten Irish featherweight Michael Conlan’s opponent for his 10-round ESPN+ headliner on March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day – at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, will be Belmar Preciado, 31, of Colombia, who has won two fights in a row since losing to former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa in December 2018.”
It’s certainly a step up for WBO#1 Conlan and a massive upgrade from the Olympic medal winner’s most recent foe Vladimir Nikitin.
No doubt it will be a step up the Top Rank fighter welcomes. The Adam Booth trained feather has been calling for tests and opponent upgrades since he has turned over – and whilst he has moved progressively, victory over the Colombian would be a career best win.
Talk since early this year was that The St Patrick’s Day fight would be a world title eliminator, which would allow Conlan to set up an August world title fight.
Considering he is WBO#1 most would predict if March 17 is a final eliminator then it will be under the confines of that governing body.
The reigning WBO world title holder is natural talent Conlan’s fellow Rio Olympian and Top Rank fighter, Shakur Stevenson.
The American, who was linked heavily to Josh Warrington, but instead takes on Miguel Marriaga in March, is rumoured to be vacating and moving up if he emerges victorious from that defense, meaning the World Championship gold medal winner could fight for the vacant strap.
IBF world champion Warrington, who Conlan has previously called out, may still be interested in unifying, meaning there is a chance the Belfast fighter could fight for two world titles on the same night.
If Conlan does come through unscathed and March 17 is an eliminator Belfast could be the home of two world title fights this Summer. Carl Frampton is on course to fight WBO super featherweight Jamel Herring in the city in June and Conlan could challenge for the featherweight two months later.
Official conformation with regard to Conlan’s next bout is expected later tonight.