Michael Conlan ‘very relaxed’ as mind games begin ahead of Leigh Wood clash

Michael Conlan is eager to leave and thinks the pressure is on Leigh Wood as the latter makes the first defense of his WBA featherweight title this weekend.

The Belfast fighters camp brings an underdog mentality with them, but they are confident the unbeaten Conlan can deliver the perfect performance in Nottingham on Saturday night.

Wood shocked the division last summer with a surprise win over China’s Xu Can.

Wood, 33, stepped in with just six weeks notice but outplayed his young rival to claim the IBF crown and claim the biggest victory of his career.

Conlan’s last fight came in August in Belfast when he impressed to claim a unanimous points victory over TJ Doheny.

Conlan led the fight and forced Doheny to an eight count in the fifth round.

Saturday’s contest will be a step up for Conlan, but the bookmakers have him as an 8/15 favorite, with Wood a 13/8 chance.

Still, Conlan says the pressure is on the champion, fighting in his own backyard.

“I’m ready to go, my confidence comes from the preparation and my preparation has been fantastic. I’m very confident and very relaxed, we’re here in Nottingham and it’s time to go, there’s not much to say other than me really looking forward to Saturday night,” Conlan said at Thursday’s press conference.

“I know what kind of performance is coming on Saturday night, it’s the most relaxed and calm I’ve seen in a fight week.

“I don’t feel any pressure, I’m here in the opponent’s garden and I have to snatch the belt from them. Everyone is here to see it, I already have thousands of fans coming so it’s not new .

“I’m just here to do a job, I hope Leigh had a fantastic training camp, I hope he’s the best Leigh Wood there’s ever been because I believe I will be. It will make everything sweeter when I beat him.

“I just expect a fantastic performance by myself.”

“I expect Michael to be world champion”

Conlan’s older brother Jamie also thinks Michael is in the right frame of mind to win the belt.

“We came here six weeks ago full of confidence, we came here today even more confident. Confident in the preparation that has been put in place over the past eight weeks, confident in the mindset that he brought into this fight and the mental attitude that he’s placed in camp and the challenges he faces in camp,” said Conlan Snr.

“We came here to upset the apple basket and spoil your boy’s party – send the Irishman home happy.

“I expect Michael to become world champion on Saturday. As far as favorites and underdogs go, we don’t really think about it. We came in as a B side fighter and an underdog mentality, but we are fully convinced that we will become world champion.

“I truly believe it’s his destiny, Leigh Wood is just an obstacle in his path that we have to overcome. It’s Michael Conlan’s party, it’s the one he’s coming to bring home, and it’s the one that fans will be singing and talking about in bars for years to come.

“I think it’s something Leigh is going to have to deal with, the mental stress he’s going to be under, I saw that last night when he was training.

“There is going to be more mental pressure on him than on Michael, Michael has dealt with mental pressure throughout his career. He was put in the spotlight from day one, Leigh did it when nobody was watching, he won the world title in front of 25 people in your [Eddie] back garden.

“It’s the big moment, it’s going to be where everyone is pressuring him, expecting him to win – in his hometown as a favourite.”

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