US TV coverage of Michael Conlan’s Australian adventure will lead to regular homecoming bouts for the Belfast super-bantamweight, according to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum.
Undefeated Conlan (2-0) has his third professional fight in Brisbane this weekend, with the world amateur champion taking on local fighter Jarrett Owen on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s WBO world welterweight title defence against Jeff Horn.
The Aussie fight bill will take place on Sunday afternoon local time – with Conlan’s six-round support bout set for 3am approx in Ireland – to cater for primetime Saturday-night TV in America.
While Conlan’s fight will be screened live in Ireland and the UK on BoxNation, the high-profile slot will also be broadcast to a large US audience after Arum’s Top Rank promotional outfit recently signed a significant TV deal with ESPN.
That move is likely to have a big impact on Conlan’s career as it opens the door to a much-needed US TV platform for the Irishman’s anticipated homecoming date in Belfast later this year.
After going against the lucrative trend of pay-per-view TV for big-time boxing in order to work with cable-TV station ESPN, Arum this week claimed that US viewing figures for the Aussie bill will be the highest recorded for boxing since Muhammad Ali’s 1978 rematch win over Leon Spinks, which he also promoted.
And the straight-talking Top Rank boss insists that Conlan’s profile – and therefore his chances of booking big fight dates – will get a massive boost as a result.
“I think the important thing is that this fight will do between 5-10 million viewers in the United States and that means that five million-plus people will see Mick Conlan in the United States that never would’ve seen him if we were on a different platform like HBO [pay per view],” said Arum.
“As far as Mick is concerned, we’re hoping for him to fight over in Ireland - in Belfast and Dublin - and it [the ESPN deal] is a great platform to do that,” said the promoter.
While Pacquiao is the star of the show in Brisbane and a heavy favourite to easily overcome Aussie Horn, Top Rank’s eagerness to install Conlan on the undercard is a further sign that the US promoters want to push the Irishman in a bid to make him a future star.
After witnessing Conor McGregor’s success in tapping into a lucrative Irish-American market, the US promoters have clearly marked out the Belfast super-bantamweight as an attraction who could potentially replicate the UFC star’s marketability.
ESPN are also seeking to reverse declining subscription figures in the US and their deal with Top Rank is likely to lead to huge US exposure for Conlan.
“A kid like Mick doesn’t need moulding,” said Arum. “He has a great personality and he’s very media friendly.
“We just have to make sure that he gets the right fights so he learns and he can reach the top,” added the promoter, who believes that Brisbane’s Owen will offer a decent test for Conlan in their scheduled six-rounder, which is set between the super-bantam and featherweight limits.
Owen carries a modest record of 5-4-3, but Arum claims he will provide a better challenge than Conlan’s previous opponent – Mexican Alfredo Chanez – who looked to spoil their bout before the Irishman recorded a third-round stoppage last month in Chicago.
“The matchmakers say it will happen, a few decent rounds,” said Arum.
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