Political maneuvering has resulted in Michael Conlan being ranked by the WBO at 122 pounds instead of 126, but Conlan insists he genuinely plans to move down to the 122-pound division and win a world title.
It won’t happen Saturday, when Conlan (13-0, 7 KO) returns on ESPN (4 pm ET) against Sofiane Takoucht in a featherweight bout. But the 28-year-old Belfast native says after that, he’ll make the move officially.
“I think I’ll be a huge (junior featherweight), and a problem for everybody and anybody,” he said this week. “And I do believe I’ll be a world champion at 122.”
Conlan did turn pro essentially as a junior featherweight, spending two fights just north of that but not quite at featherweight in 2017. Since then, though, he’s fought at 126, and hasn’t yet started facing contenders.
But the time is nearing that he’ll have to do just that, though, again, it won’t be this weekend. Takoucht (35-4-1, 13 KO) was bowled over in two rounds by featherweight titlist Josh Warrington in his last bout, a world title shot he hadn’t really earned. Angelo Leo just recently won the WBO title at 122, which Emanuel Navarrete had vacated, and Leo is still expected to face Stephen Fulton Jr in time.
Conlan could, in theory, get a world title shot at 122 next year. And it’s not as though the WBO belt is the only one, but they notably moved him from the No. 1 spot at 126 to make way for Navarrete to face Jessie Magdaleno for that vacant title, without Conlan losing his ranking by turning down a title fight as the No. 1-ranked contender.
It is probably just as likely he’ll stay at 126, though, and be re-ranked there once Navarrete-Magdaleno gets taken care of this fall, hopefully. Only time will tell, but for now, Conlan is saying he’s legitimately going to move down, which is worth noting.