Boxing: Conlan and Mariaga ready to enter the danger zone

It’s a high stakes, high reward for Michael Conlan at SSE Arena tomorrow night as he aims to put the March World Championship defeat to Lee Wood firmly behind him when he tangles with Colombia’s Miguel Mariaga (Live on Fite TV from 7pm).

The Colombian veteran arrives in town with a record 30-5 and 26 of those are victorious in distance – a warning that falling into focus will be punished mercilessly.

Among his defeats came three world title fights against Nicholas Walters, Oscar Valdez and Vasily Lomachenko, and while he has lost two of his last three matches, Mariaga has fought more than twice as many fights as Conlan and brought with him a wealth of experience, knowledge and experience. Durability to get through tough times.

Had Conlan taken on a simpler task in his first fight after his bid to claim the WBA featherweight title waned in the final seconds of an uphill battle in Nottingham, there would have been no complaints either, but he is determined to return to the title picture immediately and also put any remaining demons to rest through Fight against a great rival with punches.

“I’m expecting a tough fight on Saturday and I know it’s not an easy touch,” Conlan said earlier this week.

“People said I could have been forgiven for taking someone else and maybe I could, but what’s the point? I want to get back to the title photo as soon as possible and someone like Miguel Mariaga is a pass to do that.

“You win or you learn and I’ve done a lot of learning. I think this fight helps me clear the roster and get back to where I need to.

“He’s a guy who doesn’t have to give up and I think he’s going to be there to the end. Do I expect him to be taken out? No — if it does, it will, but I don’t expect it because I know how hard it is.”

“I saw him fight Oscar Valdez live in L.A. and that was the best contender of the year. He hurt Oscar and I know how strong he (Valdez) is.”

Conlan warned of the force in the grip of ‘The Scorpion’ and was punished in the last round against Wood, knowing he couldn’t make the same mistakes and calling for trouble.

This is why he will patiently corner and aim to look presentable, avoiding trouble and making sure he is not lured into a firefight that suits the visitor.

Although he was stopped last time, Kunlan cornered really well and defensively, he was sold with his head and body movement which resulted in more slips than punches captured, but it was a slip of a different kind that came when the punch fell when trading in the 11th that Wood gave a lifeline and took advantage of the opportunity in the last round. The West Belfast man has vowed there will be no such issue this week with much focus on the outcome of this fight.

He agreed, saying: “There is no need to get into any trouble or go to war.”

“I’m going there to give a performance and plan for a dominant boxing win.

“I was just greedy for my own personal success (against Wood) and that was the problem and my downfall. I think this is an experience and something I haven’t had that experience from 12 rounds before. I had to learn the hard way through losing but I did and that’s a good thing.”

Mariaga is not in Belfast to make up the numbers and while respected this week, he is confident he can unearth any lingering doubts Conlan might hold in the spring.

This might be his last realistic chance to get into a world title fight and he’s not in the mood to slip away.

“I am confident that I will win and what gives me confidence is training at a high altitude in Mexico City,” he said.

“I saw the fight he lost and I think because of that, he will lose confidence. I think it will affect him because he will try not to overconfidence.

“I fought the best player in the division and the world like Lomachenko and that brought that into this fight.”

Michael Conlan insists he learned lessons from Mars' defeat to Lee Wood

2Gallery

Michael Conlan insists he learned lessons from Mars’ defeat to Lee Wood

What Conlan suffered in March was a bump in the road, but a second loss in a row will present a much bigger hurdle and set him back somewhat, so there can be no slip this weekend or his ambitions to have the world honored as he will become Fulfilling the professionals is much more difficult.

Expect him to box with patience and maturity, not taking risks and not encouraging Mariage too much.

The Colombian is unlikely to stop for his power, but Conlan can make a statement without an early night and with the backing of the busy SSE arena, he can deliver just that.

The desire to reach the top is stronger than ever and he is ready to do whatever it takes to get there.

“If you look at my flight from the outside, you’d think it was a straight line, but it’s not,” he stressed.

“Now I’m on the windy road that 99 percent of the fighters are going and the road isn’t the same as it used to be.

“It brings hunger back and makes you want it more. I’m happy with who I am right now, focused on what I need to do and want to get there.”

“I went to the opponent’s backyard in my last fight and tried to do it the hard way after people thought I had gone through it the easy way before. It didn’t pay off – I was close – but I’m looking forward to go the hard way again if I need to. “.

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