CONLAN RIDES THE WAVE WITH McGREGOR BY HIS SIDE

mick

FROM STEVE BRENNER IN NEW YORK

THE crazy man in the fur coat was jumping around at ringside.

In the stands, 5,000 Irish fans were in cracking voice, bang in the mood to cap off St Paddy’s day in serious style.

Even One Direction’s Niall Horan was soaking it all up.

Oh, yes! Michael Conlan arrived in the pro game here on Friday night.

And if this was the just the start, it looks like being one incredible, emotional and crazy journey.

With the dapper, bearded and bespectacled Conor McGregor taking up his new role as UFC star turned boxing trainer with aplomb, the Belfast boy swatted away some understandable nerves to easily overpower American Tim Ibarra in the third round.

Conlan, 25, was desperate to impress and it showed during the first two rounds.

Remember, this was his first tussle since that Olympic nightmare in Rio last summer.

But once the California-based Irishman found his range, he was too quick, too strong, too good.

When the ref stopped it a minute into the third, following a barrage of punches from Conlan, Ibarra was clearly done. It must have been intimidating enough to see McGregor backing up his pal in the opposite corner.

But then, when that first bell rang, the Falls Road fighter tried to serve brutal notice of his intent.

McGregor, who was jumping up and down with everyone else at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden, screamed: “Use the jab. Let your shoulders go. You don’t need to rush anything.”

Of course, having McGregor in the house gave this fight a crazy feel.

It was impossible for the UFC star not to be the centre of attention.

He stole the show afterwards, launching a crazed rant at startled pressmen at ringside, screaming about what Floyd Mayweather Jr has got coming to him. Yes, some of the attention was taken away from Conlan.

Some members of his family were taken aback by the glitz and glamour. This was, after all, on a different planet from his amateur days, despite big brother Jamie also being a pro.

But as manager Matthew Macklin admitted: “Conor isn’t boxing but all that talk about Mayweather, he’s got one foot in now. The hardest thing for any promoter is to try and get the fighter to cross over into other things. It’s not just Conor being around, Niall was tweeting he was here too.

“He’s crossed over to the mainstream already after just one fight.

“I don’t care how experienced you are in the amateurs, most people go through their whole careers without fight in an atmosphere like that. It’s brilliant.”

Conlan lapped it all up and with his next fight being pencilled in for Boston in May, you can bet Beantown will be transformed into Belfast for the night.

He said: “I could hear what Conor was shouting. It was great to have the support of a fellow Irishman and superstar that he is.

“He is a vocal person. He was telling me to use the jab and to enjoy myself. I was taking that all on board.

“I was relaxed coming into the ring but you can’t help your emotions once you get in there.

“I wanted to impress but I would give myself an F for performance.

“I didn’t think I performed well but I wanted the knockout victory.

“But who has a debut like this? Who has all this pressure put on them?

“The whole night was bigger than I thought it would be. Some guys don’t get this kind of atmosphere for world title fights let alone a pro debut. To have Conor carrying the flag, Niall Horan was here too, it was special.

“I would love this kind of atmosphere every time I fight. It will stand me in great stead.”

Once the dust has settled, promoter Bob Arum is keen to get the Conlan roadshow motoring once again.

There will need to be more than a few nights like this before world title shots come calling.

The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist though is ready for anything.

He smiled: “Could I go again in six weeks? I could do it all again in the morning. I am ready for anything.

“The Olympics gave me a taste but even fighting at London 2012 was nothing compared to this. I am so thankful for the crowd.

“If the next fight is in May, then great. I can eat some s*** and enjoy St Patrick’s Day.

“I could have done 10 rounds but all I want now is some pizza, some doughnuts and hot wings. As simple as that. It was a debut I couldn’t have dreamed of.”