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Talking over for Conlan and Ruiz ahead of Féile blockbuster

Michael Conlan and Diego Ruiz with Lee Eaton who holds the WBA Inter-Continental featherweight strap they will fight for on Saturday Michael Conlan and Diego Ruiz with Lee Eaton who holds the WBA Inter-Continental featherweight strap they will fight for on Saturday
By David Mohan

THE talking is done and the sold-out signs are now up ahead of Saturday’s mammoth fight night at the Falls Park as Michael Conlan gets set to take on Diego Ruiz for the WBO and vacant WBA Inter-Continental featherweight titles.

The pair came face-to-face at the final press conference at the Balmoral Hotel this afternoon with many of those boxing on Saturday’s undercard also in attendance.

There is no doubt the excitement levels have reached fever pitch just days away from this Féile an Phobail event that has captured the imagination of fight fans across the city and beyond.

Conlan looked at ease as he fielded questions and said that while there may be the perception that he is under huge pressure to deliver in style, it is not an issue and he is looking forward to the next step on his professional journey.

“I have had a target on my back since the amateur days,” he said.

“Coming in as a professional I’ve had a high profile so I know how to deal with the pressure.

“This is obviously different and something bigger I could ever imagine, so I just plan to go in there and enjoy it.

“Once I get into the ring I’m there to get the job done and get another pro win.”

Conlan has had the longest training camp since turning to the paid ranks early in 2017 as he seeks to make the improvements that will establish him at world level.

He believes there has been a massive change in his preparations and that he is set to make a statement to the title-holders in what will be just his 12th pro outing.

“Over the last six or seven months everything has just clicked,” he reports.

“The preparation for this fight started in April. I’ve learnt so much and feel so much more professional in myself I terms of diet, lifestyle.

“I believe this is going to be a coming out party for me and you will see the best Michael Conlan yet.”

His head trainer, Adam Booth echoed these sentiments and confirmed his man has looked sensational in the gym.

Since they teamed up at the beginning of 2018, Booth says the time has been spent ironing out the deficiencies in his game and implementing improvements and he is confident the Cavendish Street man will remain cool despite the big occasion and deliver the performance he is capable of.

“This event is freakishly popular so I have to be the one to dilute it because it’s still a fight he has to win,” said Booth.

“He has got to be in the right mental state and not allow the hype and the energy to distract him from what he has got to do.

“What we have been working on is continuous from day one – working on his legs, his movement, the way he pulls away from the exchanges. We’ve been working on his bad habits and implementing new ones.

“There’s always a period of time when the changes don’t show, but then there’s a moment when they just click and that moment in time has definitely happened in the gym, so I just want him to show it under the spotlights.”

Ruiz looked cool and composed at yesterday’s public workout at City Hall and was in a similar mood today.

The Argentinian does not speak English, but knows the language of boxing and while he acknowledged the achievement’s of the West Belfast man, he also stressed he is not in town to make up the numbers.

“I know Michael very well,” he said through interpreter, Paul Gibson.

“He is a quick, fast boxer and has had a fantastic amateur career, but we have come from far away and we have come to win.”

Conlan is in no mood to allow that to happen as over 10,000 will arrive at the Falls Park ready to celebrate one of their own.

While his focus is on the fight and not the event, the community support has not been lost on Conlan who says he is delighted with the volume of support and is looking forward to putting on a show.

“This is just a really special event for me,” he added.

“It’s West Belfast, where I’m from, and a festival I have attended many times.

“When I think of the atmospheres I’ve experienced (in my career) and be able to bring this to Belfast in my own back garden makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

“How much the community is behind it and how excited the people are just excites me.”

The weigh-in will take place tomorrow (Friday) at the Kennedy Centre with the fighters on the scales from 1pm.

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