OUTBACK & BEYOND; BOXING CONLAN'S DATE DOWN UNDER Arum: Five million Americans are going to be watching Mick.. that's an ideal platform for a rising star.
Byline: CIARAN GALLAGHER
LEGENDARY promoter Bob Arum reckons Michael Conlan's date Down Under will boost his future fight prospects - both back home and in the US.
Belfast man Conlan is taking on hometown fighter Jarrett Owen in Brisbane this weekend, in one of two chief-support bouts to Manny Pacquiao's WBO world welterweight title defence against Jeff Horn.
The fight card is taking place on Sunday afternoon local time to cater for primetime Saturday night TV in America.
While Conlan's bout will be screened live in Ireland and the UK on BoxNation (3am), the high-profile undercard slot will also be broadcast to a large audience Stateside after Arum's Top Rank promotional outfit signed a deal with ESPN.
By foregoing pay-per-view TV to work with a cable-TV station, Arum claims that US viewing figures will be the highest recorded for boxing since Muhammad Ali's 1978 rematch win over Leon Spinks. As a consequence, Conlan's profile - and his chances of booking big fight dates - will get a massive boost.
"The important thing is that five million-plus people will see Mick Conlan in the United States that never would've seen him if we were on a different platform, like HBO," said Arum.
"As far as Mick is concerned, we're hoping for him to fight over in Ireland - in Belfast and Dublin - and it [the ESPN deal] is a great platform to do that," he added, referring to an anticipated hometown bout for Conlan in December.
"That's why we signed him - because we had these TV opportunities and we needed a fighter to fill those opportunities."
While Pacquiao (inset) is the star of the show in Brisbane, Top Rank's eagerness to install Conlan on the undercard is a further sign that they intend to make the Irishman a star.
"A kid like Mick doesn't need moulding," said Arum. "He has a great personality and he's very media friendly.
"We just have to make sure that he gets the right fights so he learns and he can reach the top."
Conlan's fight, set between the super-bantam and featherweight limits, is scheduled for six rounds.
Owen carries a modest record of 5-4-3, but Arum claims he'll provide a better challenge than Conlan's previous opponent - Mexican Alfredo Chanez - who looked to spoil their bout before being stopped in the third round last month in Chicago.
"The match-makers say it will happen, a few decent rounds," said Arum.
"It's easy to get a guy to 25-0 record by putting him in against tomato cans, but the problem is he doesn't learn anything.
"Hopefully [we can] build Conlan's record, but he'll still be learning from every fight."
SMILING ASSASSIN Michael Conlan's outgoing personality can make him a big hit with American fans