Conlan was formally introduced to the Big Apple’s fight fraternity at the Garden’s Chase Square lobby yesterday as the build-up to his March 17 six-round headline bout against American Tim Ibarra kicked off in earnest.
The 25-year-old world amateur gold medallist stated his ambition to eventually become a three-weight world pro champion, while the event appeared to act as a statement of Top Rank’s intent to push Conlan with all their promotional might.
Bob Arum’s outfit have previously promoted some of the biggest names in the sport and the example of Miguel Cotto — who regularly sold out the Garden’s main arena, in large part due to the backing he received early on in his career from Top Rank — was cited regularly yesterday.
“We knew that one thing had to be true… we needed New York. This [US] east coast is the hub for all of boxing, but we also know it’s the home for [an] Irish base,” explained DuBoef.
“This is going to be one of our first press conferences with Michael Conlan as it was with Miguel Cotto many years ago in 2000 and I’m sure we’re going to build a brand with Madison Square Garden,” added the Top Rank president, whose words were echoed by MSG executive Joel Fisher.
“We want to make [the Garden] his home. We want this to be the place that Michael Conlan fights and fights often,” said Fisher.
While Conlan will fight in MSG’s Theatre — which seats around 5,000 as opposed to the main venue’s fight capacity of circa 20,000 — the London 2012 Olympic medallist is receiving an unprecedented push for a European debutant in headlining the venue on his first paid outing.
“It’s a dream for me to come here, I still feel a bit overwhelmed to be here in the Garden and for my debut to be here on St Patrick’s Day is going to be something really special,” said Conlan.
“Come March 17, it’s going to be special… I was speaking to [the staff] and told them, ‘you’ve got to make sure you have enough alcohol. We’ve got a lot of rowdy Irish people coming over,” continued Conlan, referencing past Irish fight nights at the Garden’s Theatre when the likes of John Duddy’s and Matthew Macklin’s boisterous support helped to set new records for bar takings.
On a more serious note, Conlan added: “I’m planning on fighting for world titles in the super-bantamweight division, the featherweight division and the super-featherweight division, so I truly believe in my ability.”
The Falls Road fighter will be expected to easily see off Denver native Ibarra, who carries a modest record of 4-4, and seems a relatively ‘soft’ choice of opponent considering Conlan’s stellar amateur pedigree. The date, however, has already taken on the feel of a celebratory launch for a fighter who Top Rank appear to view as being surrounded by potential dollar signs.
DuBoef claimed Arum is smitten with his new signing, claiming Conlan’s foul-mouthed, middle-finger tirade following his contentious Rio Olympics loss impressed the famously vocal promoter. “He is absolutely so impassioned that he has found a little Bob,” laughed DuBoef.
And Conlan’s manager Matthew Macklin — who pushed then middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez into the 11th round of a competitive 2012 fight at the Garden’s Theatre — insisted that his protégé is primed for superstardom.
“I think New York and Madison Square Garden is very important in playing a part in Mick’s journey,” said Macklin.
“It’ll be an atmosphere like something Mick has never experienced before… this is something special.
“He’s with the best people in the sport, Top Rank. Time and again they’ve brought amateurs from the Olympics and turned them not only into world champions but into superstars.”
It seems likely that the success of Conor McGregor has not gone unnoticed by Arum and Co and the UFC’s two-weight champion is expected to lead Conlan into the ring along with the tricolour. Top Rank’s Carl Moretti referenced the talks between the Dubliner and Floyd Mayweather Jr when claiming, “it’ll probably be the only time he [McGregor] gets near a boxing ring in his whole [pro] career”, but a Top Rank press release issued yesterday also revealed the company’s genuine enthusiasm at the idea.
“Talk about the ol’ One-Toora-Loora in combat sports,” read the release, which claimed Conlan’s fight night venue was taking place the “O’Mecca of Boxing”.
That language may be twee, but it is a clear indication of Top Rank’s desire to appeal to potentially lucrative Irish-American fight market.
Conlan returned overnight to his new LA base — where he will resume training under coach Manny Robles — but, all going well, it seems his long-term future lies on the US east coast.