Mick Conlan's New St. Paddy's Day Tradition

By James Kinneen Mar 14, 2019
There’s not a lot to do on St. Patrick’s Day once you’re done drinking. While some holidays have distinct activities associated with them, like opening Christmas presents or going trick-or-treating, March 17 is a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to what you’re supposed to do after you’ve visited all the bars, eaten all the corned beef and listened to all the Irish music you can handle.

With other holidays, sports have filled that void. The NFL has its Thanksgiving games that always feature the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions, college football has its famed “New Year’s Six” Bowl games and the NBA has carved out a niche for itself on Christmas afternoon over the past few years. If Mick Conlan has his way, the undefeated featherweight from Ireland will become the marquee event of St. Patrick’s Day and the newest must-see holiday tradition.

And that’s how it’s been so far. Just as the old legend goes that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland into the sea, Mick Conlan has driven fight fans into Madison Square Garden. He has fought on the holiday twice already, despite having fought only 10 times as a professional, with both fights taking place in the famed New York City venue. These events have sold well, and Conlan has made them feel especially festive with flourishes such as sporting a green top hat and walking out with Conor McGregor. This St. Patrick’s Day, he will return to Madison Square Garden for the fourth time, where he will fight Mexican veteran Ruben Garcia Hernandez.

Professional boxing has a long history of marketing Irish fighters on the East Coast in places like New York or Boston, but Conlan’s star power and professional résumé are quickly approaching the point where he will be fighting for world titles in Las Vegas. When Conlan becomes a world champion and one of Top Rank’s marquee fighters, will he continue the tradition of fighting on the holiday?

“I would love that to be the case,” Conlan told Sherdog.com. “It seems to be the way we planned things at Top Rank before I signed a professional contract, this was kind of the plan. We wanted to compete on St. Patrick’s Day as Canelo does on Cinco de Mayo, and as Miguel Cotto did on Puerto Rico Day. I think it was kind of the plan to do it that way and I’m really happy that’s the case. We’ve talked about doing it in Chicago or other places where there’s Irish communities, but New York is a great place for me to be. Madison Square Garden is my favorite arena in the whole world, so the fact that I get to do it there is great. I’m happy to stay in New York, stay in the Garden for the time being.”

Another thing Conlan recognizes about fighting on St. Patrick’s Day is the unique platform it affords, both for himself and for others. Much of the talk about this card has come from another Irishman fighting on it, Paddy Barnes, a friend (and frequent Twitter ribbing target) of Conlan’s who recently fell short of the WBC flyweight title against Cristofer Rosales, so when Conlan noted on a podcast how the UFC had used Ronda Rousey and their other female fighters to attract casual fans, while boxing had lagged behind in this regard, it invited the question of whether he was willing to use future cards to promote female fighters.

“100 percent,” Conlan said. “I would love some of the female fighters to be able to box on my card on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s ultimately up to Top Rank because I’m not the promoter, I’m the fighter, but we have good female fighters on the Top Rank roster like Mikaela Mayer. I feel that it could be a great thing to have one of those girls on the St. Patrick’s Day Card. As you know, on the same weekend that I’m fighting, Katie Taylor’s also fighting for her third world title in Philadelphia. So, women’s boxing is starting to come into more prominence now, and I think it’s going to do really well know especially with the likes of Katie and Mikaela Mayer spearheading it. It’s going to do well with all the talented women we have now.”

Having his fights become a new St. Patrick’s Day tradition, using the cards to give lesser-known fighters more publicity, the so called “Conlan Revolution,” it all sounds good as long as Conlan wins. But, unlike his previous St. Patrick’s Day opponents, Ruben Garcia Hernandez has been in the ring with some very good fighters. He has only lost three fights as a professional: to Nonito Donaire, Rafael Rivera and Randy Caballero, one of whom held a world title and two of whom fought for world titles. Factor in the pressure of being such a heavy fan favorite on the night of the fight, and the fact that his Olympic nemesis/victor in the controversial “middle finger fight” will be appearing on the same card, and this bout could be far from an easy win.

“He’s got toughness, relentless, he’s your typical kind of Mexican fighter who comes to win, he’s rough and he’s going to be throwing a lot of shots,” Conlan said. “I do believe I’m a different level with my skillset and stuff, but obviously I haven’t been tested, so to speak, as a professional, and I think Ruben could make me ask some questions of myself with his pressure and his come forward style. So, that’s something I’m looking forward to doing, answering those questions.”

Plenty of people lose fights on St. Patrick’s Day, finding themselves unable to answer the questions their opponents present. If Mick Conlan can avoid that fate this weekend, March 17 could quickly become the day of corned beef, cabbage and Conlan.

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