Featherweight Michael Conlan might only be preparing for a six-rounder in his fourth professional fight, but the two-time Irish Olympian had much bigger things on his mind on Wednesday.
Conlan will face Argentina’s Luis Fernando Molina on Saturday (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, 9 p.m. ET) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in the co-feature of the Top Rank card.
The event is headlined by the much-anticipated bout between junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko and junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is moving up two weight divisions for the showdown between two of boxing’s best pound-for-pound boxers.
But while Conlan, one of boxing’s hottest prospects, was prepping for Molina (7-3-1, 2 KO), 29, he spoke audaciously about someday fighting the main event winner.
“I think both ‘Rigo’ and Lomachenko are unbelievable fighters. I’ve looked up to them my whole amateur career and now obviously in my professional career,” Conlan said at Wednesday’s media workout. “But one day soon, I expect to be fighting one of them, so I wouldn’t feel starstruck about being on the bill or anything like that.
“I’m fighting on the bill with two of the greatest amateurs to ever live and potentially two Hall of Fame pros, as well, so it is exciting. But I always have the end goal in mind, as well, which is that one of them could be a future opponent.”
Lomachenko and Rigondeaux will meet in the first professional bout between fighters who both have won two Olympic gold medals.
Conlan (4-0, 4 KOs), 26, took home a bronze in 2012 and was controversially eliminated in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Conlan turned pro at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day — and sold out the arena, coming to the ring led by good pal and UFC star Conor McGregor. Conlan isn’t in the main event on Saturday, but he plans to pay close attention to the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux bout as a scouting assignment for what he hopes is a future fight.
“I consider this an opportunity to see where I’m at and where they’re at, and I’ll take it from there,” Conlan said. “I’m just watching and learning because I know they’re ahead of me, but I know it’s not going to be too long before I get to that stage.
“A fight against either one of them is still obviously a bit away, and there’s no point in me calling them out or anything like that. They’re focused on their fights and they won’t be bothered with what I’m saying. I won’t be doing any crazy s—.”
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he likes Conlan’s attitude.
“A kid like him reaches for the stars,” said Arum, who will celebrate his 86th birthday on Friday. “He has the ability to fulfill his dreams. If he stays focused and everything goes according to plan, he will reach his goals and dreams. He has skills, but it takes a lot of perseverance to reach the top level. I think he has the potential to be great.
“Only the top guys I have had thought that way early on. [Floyd] Mayweather used to come to me and say [about fighting top opponents], ‘In another six months, I’ll fight that guy.’ The top, top guys, by and large, had that philosophy [and] Conlan is showing that. They don’t have the experience yet, but they have the desire. They want to run before they can walk.”
Junior bantamweight Jamie Conlan (19-1, 11 KOs), Michael’s older brother, who lost a world title shot against Jerwin Ancajas on Nov. 18, said he believes his sibling has the skills to one day compete with the likes of Lomachenko and Rigondeaux.
“He needs time, he really needs time before that,” he said. “He has a lot of learning to do. These two are the crème de la crème of pure boxing ability and two of the best we’ve seen in a few decades, at least. To be at that level would be something else, but he’s 100 percent certainly capable of reaching the elite level that these guys are at.”