Michael Conlan is confident he will stop Ionut Baluta and says he will target a showdown with WBO Super Bantamweight champion, Stephen Fulton afterwards.
WBO number one contender, Conlan (14-0, 8 KOs) returns to action on Friday night after recovering from an ankle injury when he faces WBO #9 contender, Baluta (14-2, 3 KOs) at York Hall, on the undercard of Sunny Edwards’ IBF Flyweight world title tilt against Moruti Mthalane, live on BT Sport.
Baluta looks to secure his third Irish scalp, having beaten former world champion, TJ Doheny and 2016 Olympian, David Oliver Joyce who he stopped in three rounds in September, however the unbeaten Belfast man says he will not fall victim to the Romanian and believes he will win inside the distance.
“He’s pulled off two great performances in his last two fights, so I’ve got to be prepared for whatever he brings,” Conlan told proboxing-fans.com.
“I think he’ll be very aggressive, leaving a lot of openings at the same time when he’s doing so.
“But he’ll put the pressure on, he does some things in unorthodox stances and throws some wild, crazy punches and he looks like he has a bit of pop as well.
“He’s in a position to try and shoot up the rankings and probably steal my position by beating me and people can look at it going, this could be a potential banana skin for me, but I believe I’ll go in there and put in a dominant performance.
“I think I knock Baluta out, whether it’s the head or body I don’t know, but I do believe I’ll KO him.”
Conlan moves down from Featherweight to compete at Super Bantamweight for the first time in his career, a decision he says he always planned on making.
The 29-year-old is eyeing a clash with WBO titlist, Stephen Fulton Jr, who is scheduled to face the winner of the May 15 meeting between WBC champion, Luis Nery and WBA ‘Regular’ holder, Brandon Figueroa on September 11.
And Conlan, who has a huge fanbase in the USA having fought the bulk of his 14-fight career there, as result of signing with Top Rank says a fight with the Philadelphia man could be staged at Madison Square Garden in December, dependent on both men successfully coming through their upcoming bouts.
“[That’s a] massive fight,” Conlan added.
“I think Fulton’s the best in the division. Him or [unified WBA/IBF champion,] Murodjon [Akhmadaliev] are the best division.
“On both their last performances, it’s hard to split them. He’s the one I want, I’ll be mandatory after this and he’ll only have a certain amount of time to face me.
“I’m excited for that. I’ll have to get rid of Baluta in good fashion first.
“He’s a great champion, a fantastic champion whose beat many undefeated fighters and won his title from a champion, he’s not afraid to fight anybody.
“I wouldn’t say he’s ducking anybody and he’d be one who’d be more than open to fight me.
“I would like it December time, if I can’t get it in August time I want it in December time. I know he’s got a fight scheduled for the winner of a fight which hasn’t even happened yet, which is a bit baffling but it’s a unification so you’ve got to understand that.
“But the mandatory will be forced and hopefully we can have it in December time, New York City, MSG, the big room, it’ll be special.”
Watch the full interview with Michael Conlan below: