Conlan relishing fight without fans – ‘Hearing breathing, wincing… it excites me’

Michael Conlan boasts one of the most passionate fan bases in boxing.

The 13-0 Irish star has drawn sizeable crowds at the Feile festival in Belfast and across the pond for St Patrick’s Day in New York.

However, when he takes on Sofiane Takoucht at York Hall on Saturday night, live on talkSPORT 2, none of his supporters will be in attendance.

Conlan relishing fight without fans - 'Hearing breathing, wincing... it excites me'

Conlan will be looking to do his fans proud

COVID-19 restrictions hamper boxing at present, with the sport now running behind closed doors.

When asked if he feels the lack of fans could take something away from his performance, Conlan smiled and told talkSPORT.com: “Nah. I think think it’s gonna add something.

“I’m very, very excited about it. I’ve been sparring with no music on in the gym, barely any people in the gym.

“Hearing the panting, the breathing, the wincing, it excites me and it’s something that I actually am excited about on Saturday.

“I think you’re just gonna see a different side of me.”

Conlan relishing fight without fans - 'Hearing breathing, wincing... it excites me'

Conlan vs Takoucht will be live on talkSPORT 2

When the sporting world was initially put on hold back due to the coronavirus outbreak, Conlan’s March fight was one of the first to fall apart.

Regarding how it feels to finally be back, he said: “I’m delighted. It’s been a long time coming, it’s been a few months. I’ve enjoyed the rest period and the time away from sport.

“I think it’s the longest period of activity since I was 17, I think it’s made me a better fighter.

“I’ve worked on an awful lot of things, I never stopped training, I worked my a*** off throughout the whole lockdown.

“Now I’m back and I’m back with a vengeance.”

Conlan relishing fight without fans - 'Hearing breathing, wincing... it excites me'

Conlan is now coming into his prime years

Although his bout on Saturday night is taking place just above the featherweight limit, Conlan’s long-term plans are to drop down to super-bantamweight and pursue a world title.

Oddly, the 28-year-old appears one of the few people who has in fact lost poundage during the time at home.

“Coming out of lockdown, I’ve come out lighter than I’ve ever been going into a camp,” he explained.

“That was always the case before lockdown, they were like, ‘100 per cent you can make 122lbs healthy.’

Conlan relishing fight without fans - 'Hearing breathing, wincing... it excites me'

UFC star Conor McGregor supported Conlan on his pro debut

“I’m in a great position, I’m really happy, I’m ranked highly with the WBO at 122lbs already.

“Now is the right time, I wanna become a three-weight world champion, that has been reignited coming out of this lockdown.”

As he enters his prime, Conlan is now verging on a title fight, with Angelo Leo as his target.

The situation with the WBO super-bantamweight belt has been complicated though.

Conlan relishing fight without fans - 'Hearing breathing, wincing... it excites me'

Conlan picked up WBO trinket belts early in his career which help with his ranking now

Leo was initially due to face Stephen Fulton for the title on August 1, with Conlan next in line for a shot.

However, Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 and so Leo beat Tramaine Williams for the belt instead.

Now, Leo will likely have to face Fulton next, with Conlan to come afterwards.

Michael is calm about the situation, and concluded: “If he has to fight Leo this year, hopefully I can face the winner of that on St Patrick’s Day.

“That would be great, I’ll fight in between, I’ll fight November/December time.”

Conlan vs Takoucht is live at 9pm on talkSPORT2 this Saturday and will be simulcast across the network for Carl Frampton vs Darren Traynor after 10pm

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