Michael Conlan is desperate to get back into the world title picture and fulfil his dreams of being crowned a world champion.
Conlan lost in a challenge for the IBF featherweight belt back in May, but restarts his career in December against Jordan Gill in Belfast. Now training in Florida, Conlan has a new promoter, Matchroom, and a new trainer, too, in Pedro Diaz.
And while he is not looking beyond Gill, he was asked questions about the featherweight division and future ambitions.
Discussing the recent war between Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington, Conlan said: “I’ll be honest, I was sat there thinking, ‘How the fuck did I lose? How did I lose to Leigh?’” Conlan smiled. “It looks too easy. But things happen for a reason and that fight went the way it did and there’s nothing I can do about it. I was watching it thinking, ‘Yes, it’s a good fight. But I believe I can fight both of these guys still’.”
Wood and Warrington might yet do it again, and possibly at the City Ground, home of Wood’s beloved Nottingham Forest Football Club. While Conlan wants to get in on the act with his fellow Matchroom fighters, he realises that because Warrington and Wood put on such a show, he might have to wait.
“Fantastic fight,” admitted Conlan of Wood-Warrington. “I thought Josh boxed really well, then got a little bit greedy. I do think the [referee’s] warning was a bad one, I don’t think it was deserved. It was Leigh complaining but it’s not like Josh was holding him and hitting him in the back of the head. He was throwing punches and Leigh was turning his head a lot. It wasn’t like he was thinking, ‘I’m going to throw this and try to hit him on the back of the head’. There was nothing like that, I didn’t think. And it was a straight point deduction. But the stoppage, I can see why the ref would stop it. He [Warrington] didn’t turn round until eight, the eighth second of the count. The ref in the heat of the moment thought this guy’s not even going to turn around here, he’s gone. And he probably should have waited a few seconds but you can’t really blame him.”
Does Conlan think the two will rematch? Conlan applies a logic boxing rarely employs by pointing out that he never got a rematch when he shared a Fight of the Year with Wood himself.
“We thought we should have run it back with me and Leigh, but it didn’t happen,” Conlan said. “He didn’t want to run it back at that time and he said that, but I’ve seen him saying run it back [with Warrington] and I don’t blame him because he’s done what he’s done and he hurt Josh earlier in that fight so he knows he can hurt Josh. He didn’t have me hurt until he got me out of there, really. There was not one stage I was hurt or buzzed in that fight until the last round and it is what it is. It’s boxing. You’ve got to make business decisions and if you’re Leigh you probably will have the Josh rematch at the City Ground. I’d love to fight Josh as well. It was a good performance by him. He has plenty still to give. He was just caught. Obviously Leigh is known for his power and he caught him and got him out of there.”
Conlan has long been an advocate of the best fighting the best. He’s spoken about wanting a Super Six-style round robin tournament for the featherweights. He even suggested he could fight Warrington in March with the winner facing Wood in a stadium in the summer. Warrington has always wanted a big fight in America – although Las Vegas is his destination of choice – but Conlan reckons they could do big business sin New York.
“Josh wants to do America, so why don’t we do St Patrick’s Day in New York and do something like that,” Conlan said. “We’re all under the same promotional banner so it’s definitely a possibility, and I think if Leigh most likely will wait until the summer when he can fight in the City Ground, so that could be an avenue to be explored.”
The division is one of the best in the sport. When asked for his top three, Conlan reeled off several names that could easily fill a tournament, including Mauricio Lara, Wood, Lopez, Warrington, Brandon Figueroa, Rey Vargas and Robeisy Ramirez.
Asked for a top three, he said Ramirez was No. 1, Lopez and Figueroa were tied for second and Wood was fourth.
Wood was recently installed as the No. 1 with The Ring.
“You can’t blame them,” Conlan agreed. “If you’re going off results, you’ve got to put Wood at the top. He beat Lara, he beat Josh, he beat me, you’ve got to have him at the top. But then I do feel that Figueroa, Lopez and Ramirez [would] beat him. When I was watching him [Wood against Warrington], I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how this guy’s got here’. He obviously has that equaliser and it does the job for him. It’s unbelievable, and you’ve got to give him credit. I’ve never tried to shit on him or talk shit about him because he beat me, but it’s not really about that, it’s how he went about things and how he came from [being] ready to quit boxing to being in two big fights, me and Josh, coming out on top, getting beaten by Lara and coming back and beating him in an immediate rematch. You’ve got to give him respect. Fair play to him. There’s no bitterness towards him. It’s not that I dislike him or anything. I think he's a credit to the sport, a credit to himself and his family, but in terms of his skillsets I think there are much better fighters… But it’s just that equaliser.”
Conlan admits that he has not looked too far ahead, especially since the Gill fight was announced. He respects the Dave Coldwell-trained fighter having previously sparred him.
“Now it’s been announced, my focus is only on Jordan,” said the Irishman. “Because let’s be honest, he’s a good, technical fighter. He’s not a pushover, but he is someone I do believe I’ll get out of there and look good doing it. I’m focused on him, but Leigh Wood, Josh Warrington… me versus Josh would be a good one for New York in the big room in the Garden. We will both bring over 5,000 fans, and we could double that.”