Michael Conlan to use Conor McGregor’s blueprint of becoming star in America

If you’re reading this from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, you probably know who Michael Conlan is. If you’re on this side of the Atlantic, you probably need a hint.

Remember the boxer from Ireland who raised his middle fingers at the judges after a controversial loss at the Rio Olympics this summer? Yup, that’s Michael Conlan, and the Irish star signed his first professional contract with Top Rank this week.

Conlan had five other contracts in front of him, but went with Bob Arum’s Las Vegas-based company because of its reputation of turning foreign boxers into stars in America.

Top Rank is currently home to stars such as Manny Pacquiao (Philippines), Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine), Gilberto Ramirez (Mexico), Terence Crawford (U.S.) and many others. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto were all once with Top Rank.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Conlan, who will compete in the junior featherweight division. “I’m with the best here at Top Rank. If you look at Top Rank’s track record of turning Olympians into professional world champions, it was an easy decision.”

The 24-year-old Conlan, who has 72,000 followers on Twitter, hopes to follow the blueprint Irishman Conor McGregor used to become a star in the UFC.

To put into perspective how popular Conlan is back home, he beat out McGregor to win the RTE Sports Person of the Year last December.

“McGregor created a market here that I can tap into,” Conlan said. “I’m good friends with Conor and I’m sure he’ll help me along the way. It’s great to have people like him support me.”

Conlan’s debut will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day, according to Arum’s tweet sent out Friday.

November undercards

The pay-per-view undercard for Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas at Thomas & Mack Center on Nov. 5 is set.

Las Vegan Jessie Magdaleno will get his first title shot when he faces WBO junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire in the co-main event.

Rising star Oscar Valdez will make his first WBO featherweight defense against Japan’s Hiroshige Osawa, the mandatory challenger. Two-time Olympic gold medalist from China, Zou Shiming, battles Thailand’s Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym for the vacant WBO flyweight belt.

Ticket sales are off to a brisk start. Only a few hundred tickets are left for the 6,800 seats selling for $54, according to Arum. The Top Rank promoter is optimistic the event will sell out the 18,000-seat venue on the UNLV campus.

“Instead of scaling it back,” Arum said. “What we did from the get-go was we took almost 7,000 seats and made them $50. We gave people the opportunity to see Manny Pacquiao live in person for $50. That’s a big thing.”

The first match on the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward undercard for Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena was announced this week.

Isaac Chilemba, a tough veteran from Malawi, faces Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a rising contender from the Ukraine, in a light heavyweight battle.

Canelo, GGG updates

With Saul “Canelo” Alvarez sidelined the rest of the year with a fractured right thumb, that leaves his Dec. 10 HBO date open.

Gennady “GGG” Golovkin hopes to slide into that spot for his next bout and it could be a good one. Daniel Jacobs, arguably the best middleweight not named Golovkin, is in negotiations to face the three-belt knockout artist from Kazakhstan.

Madison Square Garden in New York City is the frontrunner to land the exciting middleweight match.

Showdown in the U.K.

Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares meet Saturday in Manchester, England, in a matchup between the two best lightweights.

Crolla defends his WBA belt against Linares’ WBC diamond strap, with the 135-pound lineal title on the line. The showdown can be found on the AWE channel or Klowdtv.com at 2:30 p.m.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.

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