One would have expected Michael Conlan to be happy with the fact it was two weeks before his favorite holiday and 11 days before he would be returning to the ring for the final time in 2018 against Jason Cunningham (1 p.m. ET, ESPN+). Instead, Conlan is the opposite.
“For me, I’m a huge Christmas person,” Conlan told Sporting News. ”Missing Christmas is almost a sin. I love Christmas so much. I love being with my family and friends. Christmas was a big thing when I was growing up. Now, I want it to be a big thing for my children. Missing this time of year is very hard. I’m sitting here in London and my family is back in Ireland. There are no Christmas things around here.”
But as Conlan continued to explain his position, the Irishman pivoted and came to the realization that there’s a legitimate reason why he’s fighting during the holiday season.
“I have to sit here and remember what I’m doing it all of this for – and that’s for my family and our future,” Conlan said. ”I have to be honest; it is very tough. I hope I don’t have to fight too many more times at this time of year.”
Conlan’s (9-0, 6 KOs) followed the path many fighters embark on when they break through into the professional ranks of taking as many fights as possible to get the necessary experience. He fought five times when he debuted in 2017 and will equal that total when he steps into the ring on Saturday. Each fight has seen Conlan a step up in the level of competition rising, including this weekend’s bout with Cunningham.
The expectations for the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and the 2016 Olympian are high. Many feel Conlan is ready for the opportunity to achieve his ultimate goal of winning a world title. While Conlan understands the reasoning of his promotional team at Top Rank wanting to build him up, he’s ready for the kid gloves to come off and swim with the sharks.
“2019 is the year I want to become a world champion,” Conlan said. “I know Top Rank wants me to be ready for when the opportunity comes, but I feel that I’m ready for it next year. If everything works out, I do believe I will become a world champion. I do believe I will become a multiple world champion in many weight divisions. It’s not a question on if I become a world champion or get a title shot. It is when I become a world champion. I would like the challenge next year. If not then I want to be extremely close to one. I’m 27-years-old and I know my day is coming. And when it comes, I will be ready.”
On the surface, Cunningham (24-5, 6 KOs) is the toughest guy Conlan’s had in his short career. Conlan respects what Cunningham has accomplished up to this point. But the brash featherweight feels Cunningham is just another guy who is blocking his journey in the pursuit of greatness.
“Record-wise, he’s the best guy I will be facing so far,” Conlan said. “I just want to keep getting the experience so I can see where I am at on my way to becoming a world champion. This will be my tenth professional fight and I plan to win this one by knockout.”
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