Ahead of his fourth paid outing in Arizona this Friday (screened live on BoxNation), Glynn Evans provides the lowdown on the brilliant Belfast boxer who claims he is destined to be ‘Ireland’s greatest ever’.
1) Michael John Conlan was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 19th November 1991, the third of four sons to John (a national boxing coach) and Theresa (a student mentor). The family were raised just off the notorious Falls Road in west Belfast and there is a mural of Michael on a wall in the district.
Brother Jamie – five years his senior - is the reigning Commonwealth Super-Flyweight champion, unbeaten in 19 and world rated by the IBF (5) and WBO (3). The siblings sparred frequently.
Now 25, Mick is 5ft 8in tall and operates in the super-bantamweight division. Fiancée Shauna is a legal secretary and the couple have a two and a half year old daughter Luisne (‘Little Flame’ in Gaelic).
2) Conlan first trailed Jamie to the Clonard boxing gym, aged just seven, had his first bout at the St John Bosco ABC at ten and lifted his first title – the Ulster Junior Novices – at 11. His childhood boxing heroes were showmen Sugar Ray Leonard and Naseem Hamed.
Michael claims he had 248 amateur contests with just 14 losses. After snaring a brace of national junior titles, he added four All-Ireland senior titles (three at flyweight, one at bantam). As a teenager, he defeated current WBA Super-Flyweight champion Khalid Yafai – two years his senior – at the 2011 European Senior Championships in Ankara, Turkey. However, he was twice touched off by Barry’s reigning British flyweight champion Andrew Selby in major international tourneys.
3) Wearing the singlet, Conlan estimates that he represented his country on roughly 120 occasions, boxing at two Olympics, two Commonwealth Games, three European senior meets and three senior World Championships. He is undoubtedly the most decorated fighter in Ireland’s proud amateur boxing history; topping the bantamweight podium at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (2014) plus the World and European Seniors in Qatar and Bulgaria respectively (both 2015). At the latter, he was voted Outstanding Boxer of the Tournament. Previously, he captured a flyweight bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London. The Belfast blizzard also enjoyed three seasons in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing. Representing the USA Knockouts, Team Germany and Italia Thunder, he won seven of his ten contests.
The Ring magazine described his style as ‘a perpetual blur’. A stiff jabbing switch hitter, he is blessed with balletic feet, frightening punch output and a savage body attack. In 15 years of competition he has been floored just once, rising from the canvas to outpoint Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev in the 2015 World Amateur final.
4) Entering the 2016 Rio Olympics as AIBA’s number one 56kg boxer, and tournament top seed, mighty Mick went viral across the globe for flipping a middle finger salute to the judges – from the boxing powerhouses of Sri Lanka, Brazil and Poland (!) - after conceding a mystifying 3-0 verdict to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter final. The decision was loudly booed inside the arena.
A 7-1 on favourite to advance to the medal stages, Conlan then tore off his Ireland vest and unleashed a profanity filled tirade live on RTE TV, calling the officials ‘f***ing cheats...I boxed the ears off him!’ Michael, who has the Olympic rings tattooed to the right side of his torso, vowed never to watch Olympic boxing again.
Though all 36 boxing officials were subsequently suspended due to scoring scandals, Conlan was issued with a severe reprimand for his outburst. He was later fined almost £8,000 by the Disciplinary Committee for violating IOC rules by betting on boxing events at the Games. The fine remains unpaid!
5) In September 2016, octogenarian Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum fought off a pack of suitors that included Mayweather Promotions, Golden Boy, Al Haymon, Lou DiBella and Matchroom Sport to tie Conlan to a professional deal. Clearly seeking to cash in on the 35 million Irish-Americans in the US, Arum reputedly sealed the deal with a cool $1million signing fee! The contract includes a clause for Conlan to fight once a year back in Ireland.
Michael now resides in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles where he is managed by ex European middleweight champion Matt Macklin’s Marbella based Mack The Knife (MTK) franchise. He trains under top US coach Manny Robles at the upwardly mobile Rock Gym in Carson, California where his sparhands include undefeated WBO champions Oscar Valdez (featherweight) and Jesse Magdaleno (super-bantam), plus 15-0 featherweight prospect Emilio Sanchez.
6) Conlan’s three paid gigs thus far – each screened live on BoxNation – all concluded in third round stoppage wins. He debuted to much fanfare, amidst a sea of green, before a 5,102 sell out at Madison Square Garden’s Theater on St Patrick’s Day. Greeted by an Irish dance troupe and marched to the ring by his good pal Conor McGregor, the over eager Ulsterman graded himself an ‘F’ for his ritual slaughter of Denver’s Tim Ibarra.
He again topped the bill for his second start, dismantling never previously halted Mexican Alfredo Chanez at Chicago’s UIC Pavillion, then completed his hat-trick with ESPN cameras screening, against local MMA convert Jarrett Owen before 50,000 on the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn undercard at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in early July.
7) With his dapper three pieces and impish charm, family man Conlan is a marketing dream. Aged just 21, he starred in TV3’s Celebrity Apprentice Ireland – fired second (!) – and in 2015 was honoured as Irish Sport’s Star of the Year by both RTE and the Belfast Telegraph.
And the Manchester City fan is not shy about his potential: ‘The Olympic Games is the last loss I’m going to have in my career.....I want to fight Carl Frampton before 80,000 at Croke Park and I’m confident I’d beat him ...It’s my intention to be Ireland’s greatest ever!’