Carl Frampton: Wants a "calm performance" from Michael Conlan in Belfast

The city of Belfast is renowned for having one of the most infamous atmosphere’s in world boxing. The list of world class fighters coming out of the city is almost endless. 

They hold their fighters in the highest of regards, the love they have for boxing is clear for all to see. The city using the term “we” when discussing Michael Conlan’s chances against Luis Alberto Lopez tomorrow night gives you an indication of how badly Belfast wants a world champion again.

Conlan takes a second swipe at claiming a world title when he challenges Lopez for his IBF featherweight world title at the SSE Arena. His people will be looking for him to emulate one of the modern greats from the city in Carl Frampton. The former world champion brought great nights to the fight loving city, defeating Kiko Martinez for world honours at the Titanic Quarter and filling out Windsor Park when dispatching of Luke Jackson are just two examples.

“I’m looking forward to a big fight week that we haven’t seen since some of my own fights a number of years ago.” Frampton said in an exclusive interview for ProBox TV. “It is nice to be on the other side of the ropes and soak up the atmosphere. I’m genuinely very excited about tomorrow night.

“This is the best city in the world. We have been craving for big nights to come back, there hasn’t been a big night like this in a longtime. It is important Mick wins, not only for himself, but for his legacy and his family. It is important for the city, it is important for the guys on the undercard coming through to keep getting exposure. Then it is important that he wins and he comes back here again. There is a lot of pressure on him, but he has been someone who has had pressure throughout his career, even as an amateur. It is nothing new to him, I think he is going to be okay.”

A question mark remains over Conlan since his lone career defeat to Leigh Wood last year. He’s bounced back with two victories since in his homeland.

“One thing he did which was very brave after his fight with Leigh Wood was get in there with [Miguel] Marriaga.” Frampton explained. “He’s a real big puncher! I was thinking it was a dangerous fight but he took and stood up to him. He got hurt in the last round, he rode the storm, so I think his confidence came back after that. He needs that tomorrow night because Lopez can really really fight. He won’t be overawed by the atmosphere, which can beat people sometimes before they get into the ring. He done it against Warrington in Leeds and done it in America as the underdog. It is not a new thing for Lopez, he’s a good fighter and I don’t think the atmosphere will affect him.

“It is hard to beat a world title atmosphere in Belfast. I genuinely don't think there is anywhere better in the world that can replicate Belfast. It is one of those cities where even the undercard fighters bring a bit of a crowd in, and people sit in their seats [early] and watch the fights. As the main event approaches, it is different gravy.”

Lopez clinched his first world title against Josh Warrington, also on away soil. Many found the fight hard to split.

“I thought Lopez won the fight.” Frampton answered. “I thought it was a fair decision, I don’t think it was a robbery. It was a close fight, but I thought the right man got the decision. If you beat someone like Josh Warrington, then of course he is going to be a good fighter. I am hoping for a calm, relaxed performance from Mick, not to get too caught up in the atmosphere and not to get over eager and carried away. If he does that and remains calm, I think that he wins this fight. I don’t think it is going to be easy, but I am backing Mick to win on points.”

Belfast boxing fans are revered, the conveyor-belt of fighters Northern Ireland has produced from a population of 1.8 million is quite astonishing. Where does this deep respect for the sport come from?

“I was a city, well not anymore, that was full of violence.” Frampton added. “It was full of warring communities and people fighting each other. There has always been a great respect for fighters and boxers from both sides of the community. If you can fight they will get behind you and support you. That is what we will see tomorrow night with Michael Conlan.”