World title boost for Michael Conlan – next in line for Shakur Stevenson’s strap

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Michael Conlan took a notable step toward a 2020 world title shot yesterday.

The popular Belfast fighter upgraded his world ranking with the WBO and is now #1 contender for the their version of the featherweight title.

The Olympic medal winner moves up from third in the previous WBO ratings. 

The ranking should enable the younger brother of former world title challenger Jamie Conlan the chance to maneuver his way into a 2020 world title fight.

Whether he goes straight into world title action remains to be seen. It’s quite possible the World Championship gold medal winner will fight an eliminator in New York in March, which would open the doors for a massive Feile world title fight in August.

Conlan’s fellow Rio Olympian and Top Rank stable mate Shakur Stevenson is the reigning champion having beat Diego Alberto Ruiz to claim the title vacated by Oscar Valdez in August.

In that regard the Bob Arum favourite could be deemed next in line for the American, but it’s likely they will be kept apart for now.

Top Rank will want to build that match up from big to mega fight over the next few years.

It’s surmised Stevenson, the fighter Conlan would have faced in the Olympic semi final, but for the Rio robbery, may look to unify and then move up in weight.

That would leave Conlan free to fight for the vacant strap.

Others to benefit in the new WBO rankings are Luke Keeler and Tyrony McCullagh.

Middleweight Keeler, who is rumoured to be on the verge of announcing a massive fight, upgrades to #2, while McCullagh moves up to #6 in the super bantamweight rankings, one place above recent world champion TJ Doheny, something that won’t be lost on ‘White Chocolate’.

Conlan is out next on December 14 as part of a massive ESPN triple header alongside Terence “Bud” Crawford and Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas  world title fight, as well as IBF lightweight world champion Richard “RC” Commey defending his title against human highlight reel Teofimo Lopez.

Conlan will face old rival Vladimir Nikitin over 10 rounds and opens the TV portion of the card.

Noel Murphy provides further Irish interest on the night. The Cork fighter takes on Top Rank prospect Josue Vargas down the undercard.

dpg

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: [email protected]