“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Michael Conlan has praised the influence of Carl Frampton on Irish boxing, crediting his fellow Belfast boxer for increasing the visibility of the sport.
Olympic bronze medallist Conlan returns to the ring on Friday to take on Romanian Ionut Baluta in a super-bantamweight bout in London.
While this bout will take place behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions, Conlan has proven to be a crowd favourite in Ireland, Britain and even the US.
Conlan told the Belfast Telegraph that he believes the support he receives is only possible as a result of Frampton bringing boxing to “the minds of people” in Ireland.
— Michael Conlan (@mickconlan11) April 5, 2021
Michael Conlan on Carl Frampton.
“Carl is the best fighter that we have ever had and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Conlan said.
“He changed everything about the sport here – he made professional boxing an event in the minds of people, something they couldn’t miss. I’ve been able to build on that and I’m very grateful for the position I’m in.
“Before Carl, we had some very good fighters, but Carl took everything to a new level.
“He’s a fantastic man, a role model to everybody in boxing and outside of the sport and I’m glad that he has retired with his senses intact and money in the bank. That’s what every fighter wants when they start out.”
‘Am I the new flag-bearer for Irish boxing?’
Frampton announced his retirement a few weeks ago after his stoppage defeat to WBO junior-lightweight champion Jamal Herring, bringing the curtain down on a 12-year long professional career.
While his career ended on a loss, Frampton has had an extremely successful career previously. He held world titles at two weight classes and was attempting to win a third against the naturally bigger Herring.
Now that Frampton has retired, Conlan is arguably the most prominent Irish male professional boxer, but the 29-year-old is unsure if he can claim to bear the Jackal’s mantle as Ireland’s new “flag-bearer”.
“Everybody will have their opinion and look at the different generations of fighters but when you look at all the achievements, the big fights he was involved in, you have to say that he has staked a claim very heavily to be seen as our best ever. He has certainly inspired the next generation,” Conlan said.
“People ask me if the mantle has now been passed to me, am I the new flag-bearer for Irish boxing? The truthful answer is that I don’t know. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the people to decide that.
“I just have to focus on achieving what I believe I can over the next few years. That’s all I can do.”