Michael Conlan believes his new professional deal with Top Rank will help him to replicate Conor McGregor’s huge success by tapping into the Irish-American fight market.
Belfast bantamweight Conlan has signed to the US promotional giants following his decision to turn pro after a controversial loss at the Rio Olympics.
McGregor has become a mainstream star in America, earning a basic purse of $3m for his most recent UFC win over Nate Diaz last August, and Conlan hopes to follow the Dubliner’s lead by moving Stateside to launch his pro boxing career.
Conlan’s Top Rank deal is believed to be worth more than $1m and will see him make his debut at New York’s Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s weekend.
Top Rank toyed with the idea of putting Conlan on the undercard of Manny Pacquaio’s November 5 comeback in Las Vegas, but will instead showcase Conlan to the east-coast Irish-American market.
“They see the market and what Conor McGregor has done, and they see what St Paddy’s Day means to the Irish people,” said Conlan.
“I’m so happy they went for it. It’s something every Irish fighter dreams of — fighting in New York on St Paddy’s Day. It’s unbelievable,” added Conlan, who will be based on the US east coast in Los Angeles.
The world amateur champion looks likely to hook up with old amateur team-mate Jason Quigley and his trainer Manny Robles at the Rock Gym in LA.
“I’m looking at training in Quigley’s place with his coach. There’s good quality sparring partners there,” said Conlan.
The Belfast bantamweight’s manager, Matthew Macklin, revealed Bob Arum’s promotional outfit “blew everybody out of the water” to outbid their rivals and secure Conlan, who confirmed he would turn pro after signing with the company on Monday night in a deal sources have suggested is worth more than $1m.
The amateur world champion confirmed his intention to turn professional immediately after his controversial loss to Russian Vladimir Nikitin at the Olympics and it is understood Arum’s promotional company fought off competition from various promoters, including a number of high-profile US rivals, to land the London 2012 Olympic medallist’s signature.
While Conlan will be promoted by Top Rank — the promotional company that launched the pro careers of stars such as Floyd Mayweather Jr, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto — the Belfast native will be managed by retired former European middleweight champion Macklin. Three-time world-title contender Macklin admitted Top Rank made an offer that was too good to refuse, particularly considering the company’s experience in building star fighters.
“I think it’s a no-brainer. If it was me and my career, I’d go with Top Rank even if the money wasn’t as good as it is, but to be honest they blew everybody out of the water,” said Macklin.
Conlan’s father, John, head of the IABA’s Ulster High Performance Unit, is keen for his son come under the guidance of an astute trainer.
John Conlan’s commitments to amateur boxing means he will not take a hands-on corner role with Michael, but he will advise his son as well as Paddy Barnes, who is also turning pro under Macklin’s management with Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM).
“They should really look to find them a really good pro coach,” said Conlan senior. “Not the Freddie Roaches or those guys who are snowed under with boxers. They need a really talented pro coach that has the skill-set to bring them into the pro game.”
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