Michael Conlan anticipates career-best atmosphere against Lopez in Belfast

Michael Conlan wrapped up a 12-week camp in Surrey with Adam Booth last week and feels he has never been more ready to fulfil his goal of winning a world title.

The two-time Olympic star arrived back in Belfast over the weekend ready to capture a world crown at the second time of asking having fallen marginally short when stopped by Leigh Wood with a minute to go in their 2022 Fight of the Year almost a year ago.

Conlan is focused and ready, but Luis Alberto Lopez is ready to spoil another party, having captured the IBF featherweight title in the Leeds fortress of Josh Warrington at the end of last year.

The Belfast SSE will be a cauldron, but so was the First Direct Arena that got behind Warrington and the Mexican walked out with the belt after having his hand raised over 12 rounds.

Conlan has done his homework and watched what he’s needed to see of his opponent. Conlan is vastly experienced, 18-1 as a pro but a veteran of hundreds of amateur fights around the world, and he’s seen just about everything.

“My opinion of him [Lopez] has stayed the same,” said Conlan, having been asked whether he has seen anything new in Lopez as his camp winds down. 

“I’ve watched some tapes of him. I watched the Warrington fight again and me and Warrington are complete opposites [in terms of how they fight], so it’s not going to be anything like that type of fight. I expect him to come with a high pace early and it’s something I’ve prepared myself for, to be fighting at a ferocious pace over the 12 rounds. I’ve had three-four sparring partners going over the 12 rounds at mad, mad paces, so I’m prepared and unlike the Leigh Wood fight – where I didn’t prepare that I was going to flatten him in the first round and then try and wipe him out and then try to manage energy through the fight.”

That was an eventuality Conlan had not foreseen, having Wood in trouble and then using up vast amounts of energy trying to end the fight early, but he knows world title opportunities are not always forthcoming so Conlan claims nothing has been left to chance this time.

“I didn’t for that fight [against Wood] but I have for this fight because I know if I land correctly I can put anybody over now and I have that kind of belief in myself now,” Conlan added. “I’m really prepared. I’m super-fit, super-confident, super-strong, super-appreciative of the moment that is in front of me and I know what lies ahead of me, how hard it could be but how easy it could be at the same time. It all depends on how things play out on the night. You know how it is, sometimes you get caught in the fire and other times it’s smooth sailing on a nice calm sea, so we’ll see what happens.”

Lopez came out quickly against a surprisingly pensive Warrington and Conlan knows he cannot afford to let the Mexican bank rounds, even if he is visiting Conlan’s proverbial backyard. Conlan will have to try and earn Lopez’s respect early and not allow him to get any momentum. The Irish challenger knows he needs to make an impact early. 

Conlan has boxed in Belfast before, at the SSE and at Falls Park, and he’s fought on St Patrick’s Day in New York, but he admits that this Saturday could be the most special atmosphere yet. When he boxed Wood, it was in the Nottingham man’s hometown. Now, Conlan fights for a world title in front of his people. 

“I think this could be the best out of all of them,” the 31-year-old said of the atmosphere he is expecting. “I definitely do. I think it has every ingredient to be the best night. It has the world title, home town advantage, everything that is needed. The atmosphere is going to be electric. The entrance is going to be electric. It’s just having that cool head in the kitchen and being calm under fire and being smart in the ring. You’ve got to be smart and use your skills. That could be a boring fight for fans, but I don’t mind!”