Conlan's 'whole life' is on Lopez title fight

1 week ago 21
'The most important fight I've ever had' - Conlan
Venue: SSE Arena, Belfast Date: Saturday, 27 May
Coverage: Live text commentary, report and reaction on the BBC Sport website

"Thank you for coming to Belfast, you are very welcome here, but on Saturday night I will be champion."

Belfast is known for its hospitality, but Michael Conlan could not have been more forthright when talking about the city's big occasion on Saturday.

Mexico's Luis Alberto Lopez travels to Northern Ireland to defend his IBF featherweight title at the SSE Arena.

In the other corner, a hungry and determined Conlan aims to secure his first world title on home turf.

After his dramatic defeat by Leigh Wood in Nottingham last year, there's no doubting what has fuelled Conlan to get a shot at the biggest prize.

"I definitely want it more. I'm 31 now and I'm not going to be in boxing for another 10 years," he said.

"I want to make sure I become champion this time and then capitalise on it after that.

"I definitely want it more, there is more riding on this for me, my whole life is on this one.

"I'm ready for everything. The talking is done. I have respect for Luis Alberto but I will give everything in there and I will be champion."

If Conlan can pass Saturday's test, he can be the first man from Ireland to be a world champion at both amateur and professional level. That is what is on the line.

Night of 'mayhem and anarchy' leaves no winners for boxing'Cool and calm' Conlan aims for first title against Luis Alberto Lopez

The atmosphere at the pre-fight press conference gave a flavour of what was to come, with Conlan and Lopez supporters vocal in support for their respective man, and both fighters giving a smirk in return as 'and the new...' or 'and still...' rang out at the Europa Hotel.

"I have experienced an awful lot of atmospheres in my career now, some mad and crazy atmospheres, and I know Saturday night will be no different to that," Conlan added.

"I know how to handle it now because I'm more experienced. I'll be able to show that, go out, perform and beat Luis.

"I'm just expecting the best Luis Alberto Lopez. He is going to try and bring everything. He is going to come in his best condition, his best shape and he's going to try and knock me out. I'm prepared for everything he is going to try and do."

Will the partisan atmosphere unsettle Lopez? It's unlikely. The 29-year-old came to Josh Warrington's home turf in Leeds and upset the odds to win his first world title in December.

Before that, he had taken on and defeated Isaac Lowe in London. That's no mean feat.

"This Saturday night I want to prove that I am a real true champion," said Lopez, speaking through his translator.

"I'm used to it, I'm used to this kind of environment. I've been travelling and this is my third time in the UK. I've beaten the other two guys. Sometimes, everybody wants to see me lose but don't forget I am the world champion.

"Every time they tell me that I am going to lose, I am going to be knocked out or put in a bad performance - at the end of the day, when I jump in the ring there is two of us. I am used to it and I am going to be taking the victory.

"I respect Michael Conlan, he is a great fighter. Every fighter wants to be a world champion, and for me it has been a really, really tough road.

"So don't forget that I am the champion and I will be coming back as champion to Mexico."

'Conlan at his peak'

Adam Booth, Conlan's long-time trainer, said that his fighter "is at his peak" and up for the challenge of defeating the Mexican.

"Mick is at the apex of his career, in terms of his age, his experience and his evolution as a fighter," he said.

"This is why we are in it, for the highest level of competition and the highest level of performance.

"I am genuinely excited to see how he performs on Saturday."

Booth added that, to prepare to face Lopez, "you have to try and imagine what it is like to be him".

"He comes across as a quick, strong, tough, fierce and fearless street fighter.

"When I say fierce, I mean it is not a thought for him to be in a fight. There are clear and obvious threats from him.

"But, like every fighter, your strengths can be your weaknesses. We have focused on the threats that he brings and been drilling and drilling on how to deal with them."

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