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Conlan excited ahead of Falls Park blockbuster

Jamie Conlan (MTK Global Professional Development Coordinator) and Michael Conlan have promised fight fans a show inside and outside the ring at the Falls Park on Saturday with live music and top-class boxing in store Jamie Conlan (MTK Global Professional Development Coordinator) and Michael Conlan have promised fight fans a show inside and outside the ring at the Falls Park on Saturday with live music and top-class boxing in store
By David Mohan

THE eyes of the boxing world will fix their gaze on the Falls Park on Saturday night as Michael Conlan aims to take another step towards world honours when he faces Diego Alberto Ruiz.

Upwards of 11,000 fans will walk through the gates for what is the biggest event in the history of Féile an Phobail.

The capacity of the event had to be increased thrice with the demand surpassing initial estimates and it has been easy to see why as not only is there a mouth-watering top of the bill, but a stellar undercard topped by Paddy Gallagher’s quest to claim the British and Commonwealth titles against Chris Jenkins.

Also appearing will be some of the leading lights in local boxing including Paddy Barnes, Sean McComb, Padraig McCrory, Alfredo Meli and Dee Sullivan to name a few, so the park should be fill up from mid-afternoon as the fans get behind their favourites on a unique night for sport in West Belfast.

Of course, Conlan is the man they will all be there to see and while there was initial disappointment when his nemesis from the Rio Olympics, Vladimir Nikitin, withdrew from their featherweight clash, that was overcome when an even tougher opponent in the form of Ruiz stepped in with a win leaving Conlan on the brink of a world title opportunity.

The Cavendish Street native has been preparing for this massive night in London with head coach, Adam Booth so has been cocooned from the huge build-up and excitement, but admits the event has surpassed his wildest expectations and he intends to deliver a performance befitting of the occasion with a special ring entrance also planned.

“The fact I have been away means I haven’t overly seen what the build-up has been like,” he said.

“Still, it is all so much bigger than I could have imagined. I know there has been non-stop talk about it at home and a lot of excitement, so maybe I am lucky that I have been away from it all.

“I didn’t need to feed into it too much, but this is something I’m excited about and it’s something my pro career has been building towards.

“I’ve had the big events at MSG (Madison Square Garden), the homecoming last year (at the SSE Arena) even though it wasn’t as big as this, but they have all been steps towards this.

“From my debut I’ve had this spotlight on me so it’s something I’m prepared for and it’s something I know I will revel in, so I think you are going to see a massive performance.”

Gates will open at 3.30pm on Saturday with a live band on stage before the first fight at 5pm to add to this unique occasion and celebration of boxing in the city.

The event has been over one year in the planning with Féile an Phobail working closely with American promotional giant Top Rank and MTK Global to transform the park into a purpose-built arena.

Conlan’s older brother and Professional Development Coordinator with MTK, Jamie, says those are set to attend will enjoy a night like no other and has urged the fans to get in early and get behind all the local fighters on the card.

“Everyone is starting to get excited and the buzz around the city is unbelievable,” he said.

“Tickets have been like gold dust so it’s going to be a brilliant night with a brilliant atmosphere and a great night for Belfast.

“I think every fight is a great match-up. Boxing people will be in their element and the people who don’t usually come to boxing will get a good taste of what Belfast boxers are capable of.

“The card is stacked and there are three world amateur medalists on the card – Araik Marutjan who fights Alfredo Meli, Mick (Conlan) and Luis Aries (who faces Luke Keeler) won a youth medal.

“There is a live band from 3.30pm so it will be a full day and a real experience. This is a bit of a crossover event so there will be a real festival atmosphere.

“Barra Best has been saying prayers for us so hopefully the weather is kind because it will be a special night.”

Pick up this week’s Andersonstown News or visit www.belfastmediagroup.com for further build-up and all the latest from fight week

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