Top Rank Using Michael Conlan Pro Boxing Debut At MSG To Build Up Irish Fan Base
Irish boxer Michael Conlan on Friday will have his first pro fight on Friday night at The Theater at MSG as his promoter, Top Rank, said that it has "booked the Garden for Conlan fights for the next five years, wanting to build an Irish-based fighting tradition," according to Jason Gay of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Top Rank is using Conlan's fight on St. Patrick's Day the same way it did with Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto, "who anchored Garden fights on the weekend of Puerto Rican Day parade festivities" Typically, pro debuts "don't happen" like Conlan's will, as he gets a "noisy 5,000-seat theater" at MSG against American fighter Tim Ibarra. Conlan won the Bronze Medal at the '12 London Games and boxed at the '16 Games, but in Rio became the "latest acclaimed amateur to lose a mystifying judges' decision." In the aftermath of his bantamweight loss, a "furious Conlan gave a middle-finger salute to the judges and then delivered a stinging on-camera rebuke of the decision -- and the entirety of amateur boxing." Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said that Conlan's colorful outburst on live TV "turned him into a sensation" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/17). In N.Y., Wallace Matthews writes the fact that a non-American, non-heavyweight, non-Gold-Medal-winning fighter is "making his pro debut in the feature bout at the mecca of boxing is virtually without precedent." But Conlan's rise has "more to do" with his "Irish temper than with his fighting skills." Top Rank signed Conlan to a "five-year contract and a six-figure signing bonus" without "ever having seen the boxer in a pro fight." Arum: "It's going to take time, but we think this kid is going to be huge" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17).