By Ian Aldous: This Saturday night, big-time outdoor boxing comes to Belfast as former amateur world champion and two-time Olympian, Michael Conlan (11-0) moves up a level in competition to take on Argentina’s, Diego Alberto Ruiz (21-2) in a featherweight ten-round showdown. BT Sport in the UK and ESPN+ in the U.S will broadcast the MTK Global event from Falls Park in Northern Ireland’s capital city.
Ruiz, who fights away from his native country for the first time, is riding a ten-fight win streak and poses somewhat of an unknown threat to the Adam Booth-trained Irishman. Despite bringing a competitive and worthy challenge to the table – Ruiz isn’t the scalp that 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Conlan was hoping to take on Saturday night.
Original opponent, Vladimir Nikitin would have been more than just another notch for Conlan to add to his professional record – he was his Olympic nemesis. An infamous and controversial decision defeat to Nikitin at the 2016 Rio Olympics led to the twenty-seven year-old giving one-finger salutes to the judges. He was desperately hoping to avenge those wrongs of 2016, but Nikitin unfortunately pulled out with a bicep injury.
“When Vladimir Nikitin dropped out due to injury, I told Top Rank and MTK Global to get me the toughest possible opponent,” Conlan said in a press release.
By the time the first bell rings, Belfast’s immensely popular home town hero hopes to be fighting in front of nearly 10,000 fight fans in a purpose-built outdoor arena. The event is part of Belfast’s Féile an Phobail summer festival.
It’s an event he’s proud as punch to be headlining. “Every fight to me is important, but I wanted to make sure the August 3 fight in West Belfast was going to entertain the huge crowd”, Conlan explained.
A win on Saturday night will see the highly-decorated amateur continue his journey towards a professional world title. It’s a tantalizing prospect that he’s relishing.
“I could see a title fight against IBF featherweight world champion, Josh Warrington coming to fruition within 12 months. It would be big anywhere in the UK or Ireland, but I’d love to have my first world championship fight at Madison Square Garden.”
On a stacked undercard, Belfast’s own Paddy Gallagher (16-5) battles Wales’ road warrior, Chris Jenkins (21-3-2) for the vacant Commonwealth welterweight title and Jenkins’ British belt.
Luke Keeler (16-2-1) steps up a level to take on American, Luis Arias (18-1-1) who has only lost to Daniel Jacobs.
Three-time Olympic veteran, Paddy Barnes (5-2) looks to get his career back on track following a shocking six-round points defeat last time out.
Highly-regarded Englishman, Dennis McCann (2-0) has his third pro outing since May.
At time of writing, limited tickets are available via ticketmaster.ie