Expecting dad Jamie Conlan has much to fight for ahead of first title shot

By Ryan Songalia

For the past few weeks, Jamie Conlan has been holed up in the Scottish countryside, locked in training mode for what promises to be his toughest assignment yet as a professional.

Contrary to earlier reports, Conlan doesn’t view IBF junior bantamweight titleholder Jerwin Ancajas, his opponent on Nov. 18, as the weakest of the 115-pound beltholders. He holds the Filipino standout, who is making his third title defense, in high esteem, and rates him as the second best titleholder among the current crop. He even rates Ancajas above Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the Thai who twice defeated Roman Gonzalez in the past year.

Conlan got an up-close look at his opponent in July when Ancajas dismantled mandatory challenger Teiru Kinoshita in the co-feature to Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia. Conlan’s younger brother, undefeated featherweight Michael Conlan, fought on the undercard, and Jamie Conlan recalls how the humble fighter requested a photo with his brother, who became a celebrity in boxing for his defiant middle finger protest, when they shared gym time together.

“I do believe he’s better than Kal Yafai, I believe he is probably the second best in the division with [WBO champion Naoya] Inoue being the best. I don’t think he’s the weakest champion at all,” Conlan (19-0, 11 knockouts) tells RingTV.com.

“I think he’s a great fighter. He’s a world champion for a reason in probably one of the hottest contested divisions at the moment. To be a world champion in the super flyweight division says something about you as a boxer. It’s the toughest I’ve seen in the world at the moment.”

There is a state of peace in the 31 year old’s voice, perhaps in part due to his long wait for a championship opportunity being just weeks away. It was hard for Conlan to imagine himself in this position several years ago, when his career struggled to get out of first gear. After turning pro in 2009, the banger from Belfast, Northern Ireland faced a series of fighters with lopsided records like 11-100-3, and 14-118-3, and fought just once in 2012, before sitting out over a year.

His career may have stalled but the bills never stopped, and to keep himself afloat he took on several side jobs, including working as a cleaner in the maternity ward of a hospital. Prior to that he obtained his qualification as an aircraft engineer and says he built planes in Belfast. At the time when former middleweight contender-turned manager Matthew Macklin approached him with a new deal, Conlan was working on a construction site building roads.

“Time was going by and I was missing my opportunity to be able to achieve my dreams,” Conlan says of his time under Cyclone Promotions.

“There have been moments where I wanted to pack it in early, when fights were not coming, promoter difficulties and I was being mismanaged at the start of my career until Matthew Macklin came on board and helped me, became my manager and guided me on this route to the world title. It was something we sat down when we first met, and he said he would get me a world title within three years and he has achieved that goal.”

He split with trainer John Breen and began working with Danny Vaughn, and in 2016 signed with promoter Frank Warren.

Conlan’s career has been up-and-down in the ring as well. In July of 2015 Conlan was dropped twice by body punches from Junior Granados, before getting off the canvas to win by decision. Granados then went on to upset highly-ranked contender Aston Palicte, a former gym mate of Ancajas, by split decision the following year. Then there was the Fight of the Year candidate against fellow unbeaten prospect Anthony Nelson, who cut Conlan early on and dropped him twice before Conlan stopped him on a body shot in the eighth. In his last fight this past March, Conlan was dropped once and suffered another cut against Yader Cardoza before winning by split-decision.

All in the name of character-building, he figures.

“I’ve dealt with the hand that I’ve been dealt with in previous fights where I’ve been down and had to get up, been cut and can’t see for 2-3 rounds and been able to handle that environment where everything was crazy. It’s waters that I’ve swam in and I’m very familiar with it,” says Conlan.

Since winning the title in the Philippines in September of 2016, Ancajas (27-1-1, 18 KOs) has made defenses in Macau and Australia, both times against fellow foreigners, but will face a more partisan crowd at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

“He comes now to a hostile, volatile cauldron in Belfast. When he enters the arena with 10,000 Irishmen supporting their own, when things are tough, it’ll be a lot harder when 10,000 people are shouting,” said Conlan.

Conlan acknowledges that the southpaw Ancajas is a strong body puncher, but welcomes the sort of in-fighting that Ancajas has shown an appetite for. He says he’s dealt with southpaws his whole life, sparring with his switch-hitting brother Michael growing up, and believes that experience will hold him in good stead once the bell rings.

“I’ve seen things in his fights that have not been exploited as of yet. I feel I have the characteristics in my style and demeanor that will exploit them on fight night.

“His approach, his style is very different from the European style but it’s not unfamiliar to myself. I think I’ll be very comfortable when we are at different and inside, so it’s something I’m really looking forward to testing myself.”

Conlan is fighting for more than just the dream of becoming champion that he’s held since he first put on gloves. He also has his firstborn child on the way, due in February, with his fiance’. He hopes to welcome the baby into the world as champion.

“I have a young baby on the way, so it’s gonna be life changing for me in the next coming months after the world title fight. To become world champion for me, not just for me but for my unborn baby that is coming in February, would be everything I could ask for. With all of the work that I’m putting in, I will become world champion,” said Conlan.

The post Expecting dad Jamie Conlan has much to fight for ahead of first title shot appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – Boxing

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