Michael Conlan: I can still be a world champion

Irish star Michael Conlan is licking his wounds after suffering the second defeat of his professional career. Conlan is now 18-2 with nine stoppage wins after the 31-year-old loss via fifth-round stoppage to Mexico’s Luis Lopez.

Conlan, who is taking some time off for breaks with his family, shared his thoughts with ProBox, what he has been going through over the last few days and what he hopes to do in the future.

TD: How are you feeling now you’ve had time to digest the fight?

MC: Immediately after I was like, I’m done, finished. I’m not doing this no more. I was half retried already. But the more I sat on it, the more I took my time before I made any rash decisions, I’ll go again. I’ll go again. I’ve not taken bad damage throughout my career, even throughout preparations from my career I’ve not taken bad damage. I think [trainer] Adam [Booth] throwing in the towel was the right thing to do because he told me the round before, if I don’t go back to what I’m meant to be doing he’s going to stop the fight. Then, when I went down, as you see I went down, on my back and then the towel came in, but I actually tried to get up. I actually do get up but the towel was already in. It was a good stoppage. I wasn’t there mentally. I wasn’t in the right mind frame. I don’t know what was wrong. I can’t put my finger on why. But I wasn’t there and that wasn’t me in there, who I know I am, using my boxing skills and anything like that. I didn’t perform. I’m not putting any blame on anything or preparation or anything because preparation was fantastic. I was flying. I was ready to go. I was really focused. But on the night, when I was in the dressing room and stuff, I started to have doubts creep in, for the first time in my life. I don’t know why. I started to doubt myself. I started to feel negative and it just played out in the fight. 

TD: People said you were too aggressive too early. You didn’t need to fight fire with fire….

MC: I don’t know why. I went in there to try and have a fight right away from the start and I don’t know why because that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to box and to use my skills. But I went all out attack from round one and I have no clue why.

TD: Could you put it down to the occasion?

MC: No, because listen, I can’t say it was the occasion because I’ve performed under those type of atmospheres and those sort of pressured situations before, throughout my career. It was unbelievable, yes, but it was nothing new. Even when I was walking out, it was nothing new, it was me mentally, I was doubting myself for some reason.

TD: Have you used or would you use a sports psychologist moving forwards?

MC: Probably, I’m not too sure. I’ve used sports psychologists in the past throughout my amateur career. They’re standard in sport nowadays, especially at the highest level, they’re always being used, so I don’t see it being a bad thing. I would definitely look into it. I suppose you have to find someone who is right for you, you don’t just pick any random guy, but I’ll look into it because it’s something… I don’t actually understand why it happened.

TD: Have you watched the fight back?

MC: No, no chance. I won’t watch it. I’ve seen ‘highlights’ and stuff. I’ve seen the knockdown, the towel coming in and me getting up. That’s it. I wasn’t happy with it [the fight] but I was happy with the stoppage. Even when I got stopped after I wasn’t complaining I was like, ‘It is what it is,’ because I wasn’t there and it was the right thing to do by Adam. I understood that right away and I wasn’t saying I could have gone on and continued. I understand. I wasn’t at the races. It’s not like I was badly damaged or badly concussed. I’ve seen people say it was a bad knockout. 1) It wasn’t a knockout. 2) I was very aware and understanding of what happened. After I fought [Leigh] Wood, I was proper knocked out. I was concussed in that fight… I’d been dropped [by Lopez] and Adam decided that was it, you haven’t done what you want to do, let’s call it a day here and in my opinion it was right.

TD: Have you spoken with Top Rank or Adam about possible next steps?

MC: No. I know [brother] Jamie [Conlan] will speak to Top Rank, in terms of me and Adam, we haven’t spoken about the fight. He’s just checked on how I’m feeling, and I’ve text him saying I’m finished, I’m not finished and he said, I knew you weren’t but as a team we need to do a debrief, all of us together, Adam, all the coaches, my father, Jamie, and plan out next steps, talk about that fight, where we went wrong and what went wrong, what can be better and all of these little things, a debrief of everything that happened.

TD: Your name still carries weight and there are always options at featherweight….

MC: There are plenty of options. I have still got a massive fanbase and there’s still plenty I can do in the sport. I still believe that I can be a world champion. Without doubt. I know I can. It’s just on the night on that one, I didn’t turn up. But I’m a big name, can still fill up arenas and I’ve already got hundreds of people saying, ‘Don’t quit, you need to go again, you can still be a champion. We’re still supporting you.’ I still have a loyal support who will always come out for me, but I feel like the next steps, the next fights, whatever it is, the next fight and then the next step, the next route I go, whether it’s Top Rank or someone else, whoever it is I’m fighting, it importantly needs to be thought out and correct.

TD: In terms of how you felt the day after, you messaged me and said that was enough for you in boxing, but there’s been plenty of people saying you can still win a title, how quickly did that lift your spirits?

MC: I haven’t seen none of it. I’ll be honest. I haven’t been on social media much. I’ve been on it a little bit the last few days and I put up a post because social media now is a cesspit and people will just love to boot you when you’re down. Why give anyone the opportunity? Why read it, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad? I was just not paying attention to any of it because that can affect a lot of people and even if you think it doesn’t, in a sense it does. You start to think the wrong things. It can do little things to your mind, so I’ve stayed away from it and even now I haven’t seen what everyone else is saying. I’ve just listened to my family, the people around me and my father and Jamie are the two people whose opinions I’ve always valued most because they’re the most honest with me, if I spar shit, they’ll tell me I’ve sparred shit. If I’ve sparred great, they’ll tell me I’ve sparred good. They’re always honest and they’re saying, ‘You can still have another run, you can still go to the top.’ You have all the ability in the world. That was not you in there. They understood that. We know you still have it in there, so we’re happy to back you. If it was time to call it a day, they would tell me. 

TD: After the Leigh Wood fight, you instantly wanted to go back in with him. After Lopez, you instantly wanted to retire, why the drastically different reactions?

MC: So, if I’m honest this one was harder to take than the Wood one. The Wood one was hard to take because the performance was unbelievable, I’d boxed so well, I got clipped at the end but everything else apart from that was really, really good. It was one of the only times I felt I got a lot of respect from the boxing world for the performance even though it didn’t go my way, I showed my level and got respect for the boxing ability that I have. This one, I didn’t turn up. I didn’t perform on the night. I was beat by the better man on the night and that was the hardest thing to take. I didn’t turn up. I didn’t perform. I kind of froze for one of the most important fights of my career until this point, I froze and I let it slip passed me and it was my second world title fight. It was a hard one to take. Now, I’ve probably got over it quicker than it took me to get over the Leigh Wood one because it took a few weeks to get over that even though I wanted to get it back but that was a different kind of hurt. This was just I wasn’t good enough on the night and that’s why it was hard to take. 

TD: What are the chances of us seeing you back in a boxing ring again as things stand?

MC: A hundred per cent. A hundred per cent I’ll be back. If it was time to go, I would know and I don’t think it’s time now. I’ve had a bit of time to reflect. I think I still have it in me, to be a champion. This can only motivate me and push me towards where I need to be more. In a way, it’s probably made me doubt myself more than the Leigh Wood one, because I’m like, ‘What the fuck happened?’ That’s why I need to rebuild correctly and the next fight and the fight after that will be very important. I’m not having five fights to get back to where I need to get to. One or two fights and then straight back into the mix… Two fights and then fight for a belt again if I could. Things can work out the right way if they are managed the right way.