When the coronavirus pandemic was at full bore in Europe, it might have been hard to predict that Michael Conlan would be thinking of dropping a weight class to pursue a world title.
On April 1, the affable Irishman wrote on Twitter, “… Turning cake to muscle on a daily basis.”
Two weeks earlier, he’d had a St. Patrick’s Day bout in New York canceled because of the virus. When he returned to Ireland, he opted to take a less is more approach and enjoy his life.
What he found is that it worked and rekindled his love of the sport.
“I was competing so much and making weight so much since I was 17, so this time was actually good for me,” Conlan said. “I kind of hit the reset button. I spent time with my family and did things I didn’t always have a chance to do. And when I did train, it was because I wanted to, not because it was my job and I had to.”
Now 28, Conlan will return on Saturday in London when he meets Sofiane Takoucht in a featherweight bout that will be broadcast on ESPN. He decided during the break to drop to super bantamweight, and would have been at that weight Saturday, but Takoucht couldn’t make it. So the next time out, he’ll drop to 122. It’s rare for a fighter of Conlan’s age to go back in weight, but it speaks to the work ethic he has.
And so while he was in the gym during the pandemic, he was enjoying himself as he was able to work on his weaknesses and not simply concentrate on a specific opponent.
He’s a hungrier, more complete fighter now than he was, and he hopes to soon fight for a super bantamweight title.
“The break has done me a world of good,” said Conlan, who is 13-0 with seven KOs. “I feel totally refreshed. I’ve pushed so hard during my career, and there was always something ahead of me that I was working toward, that it’s easy to forget this is a sport and you’re supposed to enjoy it. I love boxing again and I feel like I’m going to show that in my fight.
“I have an enthusiasm I haven’t had for a while, and I’ve sharpened a lot of things and corrected some other things. This is the best version of me and I feel like this is where I’ve wanted to be.”
He’s ranked third at featherweight in the WBA, but is unranked now at super bantamweight. That might make it difficult for him to be fighting for the title the next time out, but he’s not stressed.
He is convinced that his performance will speak for itself. He’s long been a big draw and has brought out crowds in the U.S. and in Ireland.
If he’s much better as a fighter than he’s been — and he’s been pretty good — he’ll make the case to give him a championship bout that much easier.
“You could say this could be a reintroduction of myself to the world,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is a performance business and you have to get the job done. It would be great to fight for the title [next], but I understand if it doesn’t happen. I’ll let what I do in the ring speak for me. That’s the best way, anyway.”
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