Eddie Hearn: Michael Conlan is a big star, but his career is on the line

Eddie Hearn showcases his newest signing Michael Conlan in Belfast tomorrow night.

Conlan takes on Jordan Gill at the SSE Arena live on DAZN under the Matchroom banner. The Irishman departed Top Rank not long after a devastating fifth round knockout defeat to IBF featherweight world champion Luis Alberto Lopez in May, he also switched trainers from Adam Booth to Pedro Diaz and made the short jump up to super featherweight.

“We’ve always talked and when he turned pro I was definitely interested because I know he is a big seller.” Hearn said in an exclusive interview for ProBox TV. “We like people who put bums on seats, we like people who are entertaining, we like people who have a big fanbase, and that’s Michael Conlan. When we have seen his fights before, I go back to Leigh Wood in Nottingham, it’s probably the best fight I have seen live. He does big numbers, we are seeing that on Saturday, and if he can win he puts himself in a great position for some big fights up at 130. The Leigh Wood rematch, Joe Cordina fight, Josh Warrington. I think he is a big star, but his career is on the line on Saturday. No two ways about it.”

Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) signed with Hearn shortly after a second world title defeat. The first unsuccessful crack came under Hearn’s promotion when Conlan challenged Wood for his WBA belt in a Fight of the Year contender in March of 2022 where he badly knocked out of the ring. 

“I thought it [Lopez] was going to be a very tough fight.” Hearn said of Conlan’s last fight. “I think down at 126 Michael hasn’t really been robust enough to deal with the longevity of the fight. I think in this fight a lot comes down to; how well are both guys taking shots now? Jordan Gill got hurt against Kiko Martinez, but honestly should have never been at 126. Both guys have been stopped before, Conlan has been knocked out badly twice. At what stage does your punch resistance change a little bit, or maybe it is just the weight. We will find out on Saturday. If his resistance is not there, Jordan has a great chance.”

Conlan joins a stable brimming with fighters between 126 and 130 pounds, which includes old adversary Wood. The Irish Olympic bronze medalist will see around 7000 fans make their way out into the cold Belfast evening as he prepares to relaunch his career at 32 years old. 

“To be involved in a big fight now with Jordan Gill now and then jump into a massive fight.” Hearn said of his plan for Conlan. “Michael has the benefit to sell tickets in Belfast, traveling fans, we saw that for the Leigh Wood fight. He could fight Joe Cordina in Cardiff, could fight Leigh Wood in Nottingham, he can fight in America and draw crowds as well. And he’s willing and ready to jump into those big fights. This was a chance to do a good fight with a great card and then put him into a mega-fight if he looks good. If Michael can get the confidence from the fans with a great performance, I think he is going to be involved in a big fight next.”

Conlan links up with Cuban Diaz after two failed world title attempts with London based Booth. The Cuban, now based in Florida, is famed for his work with Miguel Cotto and led both Cuba and the Dominican Republic to Olympic glory.

“I think he is a really good trainer.” Hearn added. “I think it is very easy to stay with the same trainer from start to finish just because you have been with him from the start. It is quite a tough decision because Adam and Michael were very close, so to say I need something different is the right move, but a difficult move to make. The change of scenery in Miami, the change of strategy and concept, something a bit fresher, along with the extra four pounds I think it could help him deliver a statement on Saturday night. But again, you don't know where he is at physically after that knockout defeat. It might not be the weight, it might not be the trainer, but we will find out.”