Friday night was just a glimpse of things to come according to Michael Conlan [16(8)-0].
The Belfast world-title hopeful outpointed a motivated, game, and tough former world champion in TJ Doheny [22(16)-3(0)] in one of the greatest all Irish fights of all time at the Falls Park.
The Top Rank star argues his performance against a world-level ‘warrior’ over 12 rounds showed just what he is capable of – and answers any questions with regard to his ability to emulate his world-level amateur antics in the pros.
The Olympic medallist also assures there is more to come, suggesting Friday’s brilliant display proves he is a big fight performer who is most effective against quality operators.
“I think I answered enough questions against a former world champion in TJ,” he told press in the very early hours of Saturday morning.
“Questions were answered. Look critics will be critics and I will still get criticised for this like I always do, but I am happy performance, my team is happy with my performance and I think the progress is good. I showed tonight against a better opponent I perform even better.”
It’s an argument the World Amateur Championship gold medal winner has consistently put forward since he turned over, the better the dance better the better the Conlan jig.
It’s also an agreement he is adamant he will continue to prove by stepping up against top-class fighters as his career continues to progress.
“I said it from the start. You have seen me in world finals, you seen me in the Olympics when I’m fighting better fighters I raise my level and as it goes on you’ll see it again and again.”
Portlaoise’s Doheny was brought in not only to give the ticket selling talent the kind of test he needed before challenging for a world title but also to enable him to prove his credentials.
Conlan claims the 34-year-old former IBF super bantamweight world champ lived up to his billling and did both.
Fight week was fractious and had more weight talk than a weight watchers meeting but after sharing 12 rounds with Doheny, Conlan was more than happy to praise his fellow Irish fighter.
“He came to win, tough tough guy,” a complimentary Conlan said.
“I knew when this cat is hurt he is dangerous and he claws back, he showed that. I learnt a lot tonight.
“He’s a warrior and I have the up most respect for him and I hope he gets back to Australia and to his family happy and healthy because that was a tough fight and he shifted some good shots. I enjoyed the fight, he is a tough dude.”
The fight did allow Conlan to tick boxes never ticked before. The Olympic medal winner was able to show his skills, his grit, and his chin as he came through the toughest test in his career, being pushed all the way by Doheny but eventually winning wide on the cards.
“TJ is a puncher and I showed tonight I can t ake a shot, no problem. Not at one stage was I hurt or buzzed at all and he landed some shots. He landed a shot at one stage and I heard his team shout ‘he’s hurt, he’s hurt, he’s hurt’ but I wasn’t hurt I was more off balance.
“I seen TJ tweet it was going to be rough and tough and saying I couldn’t crack and egg – but I cracked him to know the is some yoke in there,” he adds before revealing one spefic think he learnt from the fight.
“Sometimes I enjoy making them miss too much without making them pay and that’s one thing I neeed to work on. I need to make them pay. There was times I was on the ropes and TJ was throwing five, six and seven shots and I was just too comfortable [making him miss at times] and I need to learn from that, I should make them pay in those situations. That’s one thing I learnt in there, I also learnt I’m very very hard to hit.”
After producing the best performance of his professional career and coming through an intense 12 rounds, as well as an intense fight week, Conlan didn’t want to think about what’s next. His focus for the next few weeks will solely be on his young family.
Answering the mandatory post fight ‘what’s next?’ question, the 29-year-old said:
“I don’t even want to think about what’s next. Jamie [Conlan] and Adam [Booth] are the bosses, I’ll wait until September 11 [when Luis Nery and Brandon Figueroa fight] and then see.
“I go away on holiday next Thursday and I’m planning to just enjoy myself and enjoy life again. I’ve done back to back camps, 16 weeks and 12 weeks. It’s been a long time away from my two kids, everytime I walk in the door, even if it’s just me running to the shops, they are ‘Daddy I missed you’,” he adds discussing the hardship of camping away from home.
“It’s because I’m away so much, it’s very hard, even for them and I understand it . Shauna and the kids were away on holiday and the kids were acting up – and it’s because there Daddy is away. It’s very hard, so I’m looking forward to spending time with the family.”