No McGregor distractions for upwardly mobile Michael Conlan

Michael Conlan knows where his priorities lie and the Belfast native’s personal preparations for three more fights in 2017 will take priority ahead of any other potential distractions following his third paid victory in Brisbane over the weekend.

Conlan’s possible involvement in Conor McGregor’s pre-fight camp ahead of the Dubliner’s much-hyped bout with Floyd Mayweather had been flagged after the 25-year-old used social media to cheekily put himself forward for an undercard slot.

Promotional politics is just one of the many reasons that will not transpire, while Conlan yesterday played down the suggestion that he will aid McGregor’s preparations for the Mayweather fight.

Amusingly, one US reporter quizzed the Belfast man over the “big question” of how he thinks the August 26 McGregor bout will go at a post-fight press conference following the 25-year-old’s stoppage win over Aussie Jarrett Owen in Brisbane.

Conlan laughed at the way that was labelled a “big question”, but speaking earlier in the day the world amateur champion insisted his own career takes priority ahead of other fighters.

“My career has to come first and I’m not going to rush [my training camp],” said Conlan.

“If [McGregor] asks me for help or to get sparring partners, I’ll be happy to help him out, but if it happens when my training camp is on, I’ll not be able to do it anyway.”

Conlan’s self-focus is sensible considering his busy 2017 schedule. A September 22 return seems likely to take place in Arizona on the undercard of gym-mate Oscar Valdez’s next WBO world featherweight title defence before a possible October US fight date ahead of his homecoming Belfast bout to cap off the year.

While Conlan will not be involved in a Mayweather card, he at least had the opportunity to fight on a support bill to contemporary boxing’s second biggest star over the weekend.

Manny Pacquiao may have suffered a contentious defeat, but his Top Rank promotional stablemate Conlan notched up a third learning win on the Filipino’s undercard in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

The sun was blazing down on the ring during the Irishman’s bout as the fight card had been scheduled for daytime (local time) to suit US primetime TV.

Aussie Jarrett Owen was defeated by third-round stoppage after Conlan had softened him up with body shots. Referee Tony Kettlewell called a halt at 1min 56secs of the round, although the official hesitated to step in momentarily as he attempted to assess the visibly-hurt Owen.

That confusing moment led Conlan to cease fire for a split second before a follow-up attack prompted the ref to step in and end the featherweight bout, which had been scheduled for six rounds.

Having failed himself when asked to grade his first two pro performances, Conlan this time gave himself a C-minus.

“In the first few rounds, I just couldn’t find my distance,” he said. “But I was still happy with how things were going. I was in control and I wasn’t fazed.

“I thought I performed well,” added Conlan, who was not adversely affected by an accidental clash of heads in the second round apart from some resultant bruising.

Owen, a 31-year-old who previously fought in MMA before crossing over to boxing five years ago, sported a 5-4-3 record heading into the bout. The Brisbane-based Aussie, a local fighter, was meant to offer Conlan a fighting test on his home ground.

“I thought I could absorb the shots a lot better than I did, but to the body I really felt it and the one that caught me at the end of the second, I didn’t think I really came back well from that,” said Owen.

Conlan enjoyed the support of a vocal Irish contingent among the 51,052 attendance, with a large portion of the overall crowd present for the Irishman’s bout.

He now hopes to make another gradual step up in September.

“It’s just all about performances,” said the Falls Road fighter. “That wasn’t a spectacular performance, but I still got the win and it was an improvement from the last one.”

Manager Matthew Macklin is keen to keep his protege busy, but the former world middleweight title challenger had hoped to see him bank a few more rounds against Owen.

“He’s got three rounds in each fight he’s had and he won all three with a stoppage, so you can’t fault him really unless you want to be hypercritical, but he hasn’t really been able to show his class or his skill,” said Macklin. “That was better and he found his groove the best he has in his professional career so far, I felt, in the end of the second and going into the third.

“I wish your man could’ve toughed it out a bit longer because I felt like Mick could’ve gone through the gears a little bit and showcased his skills a bit more… but there’ll be loads of time to do that.”



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