Renowned skills merchant Michael Conlan [18(9)-1(1)] believes big ‘balls’ helped him return to the world title table so soon after a first career defeat.
Conlan looks to be on the verge of a March world title fight going into 2023, and is being strongly linked to IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez and a vacant WBO fight with Isaac Dogboe.
If the Belfast star does get a Paddy’s Day tilt it will mean he is back at the world table only one year after suffering a devastating last-round stoppage defeat to Leigh Wood in a Nottingham-hosted WBA ‘regular’ world title bout.
Such was Conlan’s display in the DAZN broadcast, Wood fight, that his high-end credentials were never questioned, he dropped the champ and dominated the majority of the 12-round fight.
However, the nature of boxing is such that any defeat sees a fighter slide down a snake, meaning there was some ladder climbing to be done.
The Olympic medal winner has been keen to ensure he didn’t get any assistance in that re-climb and called for fights of note.
Three-time world title challenger Miguel Marriaga and five-time European Champion Karim Guerfi, who he beat as recently as Saturday gone, were seen as tests, particularly for a fighter coming off the back of such a dramatic defeat.
They may have been perceived as risks – but the Top Rank fighter argues they were tests that allowed him to show the improvements he has made, as well as put him back into world title contention.
“I had a world title in my grasp and it slipped away with a minute and a half to go,” Conlan said of the Wood loss.
“It was heartbreaking, heart-wrenching and it will live with me forever or at least until I can right that wrong.
“But it has made me a better fighter. You have seen my development over the last two fights.
“Even having the b*lls to take the Marriaga fight. I don’t think I will get the credit I deserve for making him look very average.
“Even Guerfi is an ex-European champion who battered Jordan Gill, but he just got caught in that fight.”
Marriaga in particular, was a brave fight to return in for a fighter stopped in the fight previous. The Columbian is a proven fighter with world-level experience with the potential to derail a career.
“I don’t think I’ll get the credit I deserve for that fight because of how average I made him look,” Conlan adds.
“If you look at the fights he had immediately before me he gave every single one of them trouble.
“Then Guerfi, a five-time European champion, battered Jordan Gill until he got wreckless and got caught. I wanted a better opponent than him for this fight but no one else was available. Even at that, it was a stern test that got handled well.”
Conlan hopes to return in either Belfast or New York in March and Conlan Boxing and Top Rank are trying to make sure he gets a spring world title fight.