Michael Conlan and Jordan Gill are fighting for their respective careers this weekend as they headline the card of the year in Belfast.
Both are former highly touted prospects but boxing is an unforgiving sport and after a string of brutal defeats, they find themselves fighting for the right to remain relevant heading into 2024.
After stealing headlines at the 2016 Olympic Games, Conlan entered the professional ranks with huge expectations on his shoulders. He initially signed a huge money deal with promoters Top Rank and headlined Maddison Square Garden in his debut, which is evidence of just how well supported the Belfast man is.
After breezing through the ‘apprenticeship’ stage of his career, Conlan landed a world title shot in 2022 against Leigh Wood and many expected that to be the start of his reign at featherweight. Despite being flawless for 11 ½ rounds, Conlan was brutally knocked out in the twelfth round and suffered the first defeat of his professional career.
The knockout against Wood was brutal but Conlan regrouped and rightly took confidence for his performance for large parts that night. A second world title shot followed earlier this year and although he started as a strong favourite, once the bell went, Conlan looked like a man carrying baggage from his previous world title fight and he was knocked out inside five rounds by Luis Alberto Lopez.
Jordan Gill was also considered a future world title contender a couple of years ago. Under the guidance of promoter Eddie Hearn, ‘The Thrill’ claimed the European title at featherweight and was seemingly in the driving seat for a world title shot in early 2019. Against all odds, Gill was knocked out by little-known Mario Tinoco in a ‘tick over’ fight in May 2019 and the Peterborough man has struggled to recover ever since.
Six fights in four years have followed and although he has racked up some decent wins, he has struggled to build any momentum and in his last fight, in October 2022, he was stopped in just four rounds by former world title holder, Kiko Martinez.
For a career that showed so much promise, it is a shame that Jordan Gill now finds himself as an inactive former champion but this opportunity in Belfast gives him a chance to catapult his career to new heights. Things haven’t gone his way in recent years, but there is still time for ‘The Thrill’ to leave a mark on the sport of boxing starting this weekend.
At 32, this could be the last shot for Michael Conlan to make a run at a world title and he can’t afford anymore slip ups. Lucky for him, he has an opportunity to bounce back in front of his adoring home crowd and he is facing an opponent at his most vulnerable.
Both men can be hurt and with them both fighting to remain relevant, its highly likely this catches fire early. With that in mind, under eight completed rounds at (5/4) looks a solid bet.
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Boxing has received criticism for lacklustre undercards but there are no complaints this weekend as the card is stacked from start to finish. In the co main event, Tyrone McKenna and Lewis Crocker face off in an all-Belfast clash and the fight has gathered serious traction during fight week.
Both hailing from Belfast, Crocker and McKenna had a mutual respect before this fight was made but a string of back-and-forth arguments have meant that a bad blood has built and tension will be at fever pitch in the SSE Arena when these men face off.
McKenna, who has a record of 23-3-1 (6KO), bring all the experience to the ring and he has fought some huge names during his career including Jack Catterall and Regis Prograis. On the other hand, Crocker (17-0 10KO) is a prospect coming out of Belfast and although he has bundles of talent, this is an enormous step up in his career.
McKenna isn’t a huge puncher but he is as tough as they get and he will be determined to take Crocker to deep waters and prove to him he still has enough left in the tank to compete at the highest level.
The styles should gel perfectly in this fight and if Crocker can handle the pressure of the more experience McKenna, he will take a big step in proving that he is a prospect with a real chance of reaching world title level. Over ten rounds, this looks sure to swing one way then another but the younger, fresher man should do enough to take it on the cards. (9/4)
Another fight to keep an eye on is between former gym mates Sam Maxwell and Sean McComb. These two shared many year training in the same gym but their paths will cross this weekend with the winner taking a step towards a European title in 2024.
Maxwell was a former member of Team GB and in a 19-fight professional career, he has claimed the British and Commonwealth titles at super lightweight. However, the Liverpool man was knocked out by Dalton Smith just five months ago and will need to put them demons behind him as he is stepping into his opponent’s backyard.
McComb, who is 17-1 (5KO), has a huge following in Belfast but he is yet to really gain momentum in his professional career. He has had 18 fights and hasn’t really made the moves that his talent deserves. On his day, ‘The Public Nuisance’ is a real talent but as his defeat to Gavin Gwynne proved, he can be vulnerable if the fight goes into deep waters.
This is a fantastic matchup between two men who know each other so well but at (7/2), Sam Maxwell is too big of a price to ignore.
BACK Less than eight completed rounds in Conlan vs Gill 3pts at 5/4 (⭐
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BACK Lewis Crocker to win by decision 1pt at 9/4 (⭐
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BACK Sam Maxwell to win 1pt at 7/2 (⭐
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