Michael Conlan: Lopez Is A Bigger Challenge Than Wood

Former World title challenger and Belfast favourite Michael Conlan (18-1, 9KOs) is deep in his preparation as he seeks to become a world champion, albeit for the second time asking.

2022 saw the former Irish Olympian, and the now former WBA world featherweight champion Leigh Wood captured the imagination in a toe-to-toe encounter in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham. A bright start for Conlan saw him floor the then-champion in the opening round. Wood would ultimately rally and claim an emphatic and decisive 11th-round stoppage of Conlan, who was punched through the ropes, which saw the contest waved off.

Conlan has since returned with two wins against Miguel Marriaga & Karim Guerfi in August and December following his defeat to Wood in March. Conlan is confident that he will successfully achieve his dream of capturing the IBF world featherweight crown against Luis Alberto Lopez (27-2, 15KOs). Conlan and Lopez will face each other on the 27th of May at the SSE Arena, Belfast, the home town of Conlan. The contest will also mark Lopez’s first world title defence.

Lopez is no stranger to upsetting the odds in his opponent’s hometowns. December saw Lopez win an impressive majority decision over Josh Warrington to claim the IBF title in the first place.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Conlan says, “Winning a world title has been my dream since I walked through the doors of a gym. Of course, as an amateur, you’re always thinking about one day going to the Olympics, but the professional game was always in your face. Those were the guys you were watching every week because the Olympics is only every four years.

“I’ve put my life into this sport. I turned professional to be a world champion, and if I don’t win a world title, then I’ll consider my career a failure. The last three Irish world champions have all won the IBF title, and I’d like to think that I can make it four.”

Conlan then adds that despite his defeat to Wood last year, he believes that Lopez is a much sterner test for himself and that if Lopez and Wood were to meet, then the IBF world champion would have the upper hand.

“I would say this is a bigger challenge than Wood because this guy has won the world title away from home and beaten some good fighters along the way, and I think his ring IQ is better than Wood. Credit to Wood, he is very tough and beat me, but his ring IQ isn’t great, and my mind hasn’t changed on that.

“Lopez is the better boxer and would beat Wood, I’m sure. The experience of last year is going to help me a lot. I believe I’m a better fighter because of it and I will react better in the heat of battle.”