It’s a massive open air show in Belfast this Saturday night as Falls Park hosts big time Boxing featuring a massive hometown draw.
Michael Conlan (11-0, KO6) is the star of the show, but it’s a great shame that his original opponent has pulled out through a biceps injury.
Vladimir Nikitin was supposed to be the man in the opposite corner to Conlan, in what would have been a repeat of their famous meeting at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where controversy reigned. The 27 year old Conlan infamously quit the amateur code in the quarter finals of the Bantamweight tournament that year in Brazil, having dropped a suspect decision to the Russian Nikitin.
So it’s definitely underwhelming that Argentine, Diego Alberto Ruiz (21-2, KO10) will be the replacement foe for Conlan in Belfast. Michael’s WBO Intercontinental Title will be on the line, as well as the vacant WBA Intercontinental belt.
The Las Talitas resident has never fought outside his home country, and won’t be expected to poop the massive open air party in Northern Ireland. Ruiz has two defeats on the slate, a fourth round disqualification loss in 2015, and a six round points loss to Leonardo Bruno Cicopiedi in June 2016.
Ruiz is ten unbeaten since that loss, picking up the WBC Latino Silver Title at Super Bantamweight and Featherweight along the way. His last outing was in June, picking up the vacant Featherweight belt via split decision against countryman Luis Emanuel Cusolito over ten rounds. Ruiz is durable, and hasn’t been dropped or stopped in his pro career.
Conlan turned professional to much fanfare on St Patricks’ Day 2017, where he headlined Madison Square Garden in a third round stoppage of Tim Ibarra, and is now at a point in his career where he will want to be heading towards World Title shots sooner rather than later.
He is under the Top Rank promotional banner with Bob Arum, and he has fought mainly in the USA thus far, but has taken in Australia, Manchester, and his native Belfast along the way. The opposition has been pretty limited, and Conlan will look to blast out Ruiz on Saturday nights swiftly as possible. His last outing was on St Patricks’ Day in New York again, winning every round of a ten rounder against Ruben Garcia Hernandez.
Prediction: Conlan will want to wow the massive crowd with an impressive performance, and to take his frustration out on Ruiz, whom he would have much preferred to be his old nemesis Nikitin. I think Conlan can break the South American down for a stoppage win before halfway.
Sadly another victim of the card was the mooted British Super Featherweight Title clash between Champion, Sam Bowen and Anthony Cacace, but this didn’t come off, so chief Support comes in the form of a British and Commonwealth Title bout.
Chris Jenkins (21-3-2, KO8), the British Welterweight Champion, will look to add the vacant Commonwealth belt to his collection with victory over home favourite, Paddy Gallagher (16-5, KO10).
Jenkins breathed new life into his career by capturing the Lonsdale Belt in impressive fashion at the Royal Albert Hall in March, widely outpointing Johnny Garton as heavy underdog. The Welshman is also a former Prizefighter Champion in 2013.
Gallagher is the only man to lose twice in a Prizefighter tournament, with him being reinstated due to his opponent, Erick Ochieng being stretchered out of the ring after defeating the Irishman in the quarter finals. Gallagher would go on to lose the final to Johnny Coyle at the York Hall.
His there defeats have come in close run affairs. Tamuka Mucha won via majority decision in November 2016, and Brad Solomon pulled out a split decision win in Kentucky in April last year. His most recent defeat came in February, in a challenge for the WBO European Title, when Freddy Kiwitt floored Gallagher twice, but still had to settle for a majority verdict victory.
Prediction: Jenkins had a new lease of life in beating Garton last time out, and under trainer Gary Lockett, he looks to be on the up. I think this new found level of performance will help Jenkins to pull away after a competitive first half for a well earned points win.
Elsewhere, Luke Keeler (16-2-1, KO5) meets Luis Arias (18-1-1, KO5) over ten at Middleweight. Arias’ last two fights were a defeat to Daniel Jacobs and a draw with Gabriel Rosado, so he has mixed in good company.
Likeable Olympic Bronze medalist, Paddy Barnes (5-2, KO1) moves down to Flyweight again in a six rounder against an opponent to be announced, after a disastrous move to 118lbs in March. Barnes had suffered a fourth round knockout at the hands of Cristofer Rosales in a challenge for the WBC Flyweight Title at Windsor Park in August last year. His return at Madison Square Garden was meant to be a simple assignment, but Oscar Mojica nicked a split decision win over six rounds.