|Place: SSE Arena, Belfast Date: Saturday, May 27|
|Coverage: Live text commentary, reporting and reaction on the BBC Sport website|
“Thank you for coming to Belfast, you are very welcome here, but I will be champion on Saturday night.”
Belfast is renowned for its hospitality, but Michael Conlan couldn’t have been more candid when he spoke about the city’s big occasion on Saturday.
Mexico’s Luis Alberto Lopez travels to Northern Ireland to defend his IBF featherweight title at the SSE Arena.
In the other corner, a hungry and determined Conlan is aiming for his first world title on home soil.
After his dramatic defeat by Leigh Wood in Nottingham last year, there’s no doubting what drove Conlan to the top prize.
“I definitely want it more. I’m 31 now and I won’t be boxing for another 10 years,” he said.
“I want to make sure I become champion this time and then build on that.
“I definitely want it more – there’s more to me, my whole life is in this.
“I’m ready for everything. It’s done talking. I have respect for Luis Alberto but I’ll give everything and be champion.”
If Conlan can pass Saturday’s test, he will be the first Irishman to be world champion at both amateur and professional level. This is what is at stake.
The atmosphere at the pre-fight press conference gave a hint of what was to come, with fans of Conlan and Lopez in their support, and both fighters smiling like “and the new one…” or ” and yet”. ..’ rang out in the Hotel Europa.
“I’ve been through a lot of atmospheres in my career now, some crazy, crazy atmospheres, and I know Saturday night will be no different,” Conlan added.
“Now I know how to handle it because I have more experience. I will be able to show it, go out, perform and beat Luis.
“I just expect the best Luis Alberto López. He will try to take everything. He will come in his best condition, his best shape and try to knock me out. I am ready for everything. He will try and do it.”
Will the partisan atmosphere disturb López? It is unlikely. The 29-year-old came home to Josh Warrington in Leeds and upset the odds to win his first world title in December.
Before that, he had taken on and defeated Isaac Lowe in London. That’s no mean feat.
“This Saturday night I want to prove that I’m a real champion,” Lopez said, speaking through his translator.
“I’m used to it, I’m used to this kind of environment. I’ve been traveling and this is my third time in the UK. I’ve beaten the other two guys. Sometimes everyone wants to see me lose. But don’t forget I’m the world champion
“Every time they tell me I’m going to lose, I’m going to get knocked out or I’m going to put on a bad performance, at the end of the day when I get in the ring it’s two of us. I’m used to it and I’m going to take the win.
“I respect Michael Conlan, he’s a great fighter. Every fighter wants to be world champion, and it’s been a very, very hard road for me.
“So don’t forget that I’m the champion and I’m going back to Mexico as a champion.”
“Conlan in his prime”
Adam Booth, Conlan’s long-time trainer, said his fighter “is at his peak” and ready for the challenge of defeating the Mexican.
“Mick is at the peak of his career, in terms of his age, his experience and his evolution as a fighter,” he said.
“That’s why we’re there, for the highest level of competition and the highest level of performance.
“I’m really excited to see how he performs on Saturday.”
Booth added that, to prepare to face Lopez, “you have to try to imagine what it’s like to be him.”
“He looks like a fast, strong, tough, fierce and fearless street fighter,” she said.
“When I say ferocious, I mean it’s not a thought for him to be in a fight. There are clear and obvious threats from him.
“But like every fighter, your strengths can be your weaknesses. We’ve been focusing on the threats he poses and have been digging into how to deal with them.”