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Macklin: We'll Definitely See 'Inseparable' Conlan And Barnes Fight Together In Ireland

Macklin: We'll Definitely See 'Inseparable' Conlan And Barnes Fight Together In Ireland
By Gavan Casey Updated

Irish boxing fans and scribes alike are only now beginning to draw breath after one of the craziest weeks in the sport's history on this island.

Paddy Barnes surely won't have begrudged Michael Conlan's announcement that his pro career is USA-bound with Top Rank, made just hours after his old pal and Irish teammate confirmed he'd signed a management deal with MGM. Within the space of hours, two of our highest-flying birds finally shed their vests and fled the amateur boxing nest. The excitement was almost palpable.

A key figure behind both deals, Matthew Macklin, who will personally manage both two-time Olympians, can't hide his joy that despite fighting on either side of the Atlantic for the most part, Irish sport's greatest double act won't quite be going their separate ways:

Obviously they're individuals, but I'd know both lads, I'm friends with both of them and we obviously manage Jamie [Conlan, Michael's brother] as well. I suppose they're pretty much inseparable, aren't they? I think they were always destined to be together, really. But each man has his own path to follow.

Macklin was present in Las Vegas when Conlan signed on Bob Arum's dotted line, and was involved in the process throughout. While he himself confirmed on Monday that the 24-year-old world amateur champion's undisclosed sign-on fee is - by some margin - the biggest in Irish boxing history, the Brummy-born Tipp man maintains that Top Rank were the optimal candidates to guide Conlan through the jungle that is the pro ranks, having produced so many bona fide stars Stateside throughout their history.

He also echoed the sentiments of ESPN's Dan Rafael in suggesting Top Rank are positively smitten with Conlan's recruitment, having personally been told the Belfast man compares favourably with a Puerto Rican boxing icon:

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They made him an offer he couldn't refuse, but even regardless of money, they're just the right people to be with - they've taken amateur stars from the Olympics and turned them into pay-per-view superstars time and time again. There's nobody who can match them in boxing.

I think they're actually more excited than we are. We've known Michael a long time, but they're probably only realising now, in terms of his talent. I think the level of feedback and hype they've been able to gather in the last couple of days - like, they haven't seen hype like this since Miguel Cotto [who signed with Top Rank in 2001]. But they said, 'to be honest, Miguel Cotto wasn't even as big as this'. They see Michael turning into a Miguel Cotto type of fighter in terms of star status.

Rafael reported on Monday that Conlan will climb through the ropes back in Ireland for one of his six total fights next year - all of this following his professional boxing bow at Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick's weekend.

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It was music to the ears of Irish boxing enthusiasts, having already lost fellow amateur star Jason Quigley - seemingly permanently - to America. Dare we dream, then, that we may yet see the Conlan brothers and their old pal Paddy Barnes grace the professional stage together on the same card? Dream away, says the trio's manager.

It'll be a minimum of once a year, Michael fighting in Ireland. You know, it could work out to be more - we'll see how it goes - but certainly he'll be fighting at least once a year back home.

Obviously he'll be promoted here in America, but with him coming home to fight in Ireland there's certainly every chance that he'll fight on the same card as Paddy Barnes and Jamie Conlan. Definitely.

It's just about finding the right shows for them, and it can be a little bit difficult with RTÉ gone out of boxing - at the minute anyway. It'd be brilliant if they came back like they were involved back in the Bernard Dunne days, and even with myself and [John] Duddy headlining a few cards. So it's about keeping them all busy and seeing where's best to put them.

Certainly for Mick, America is the best place for him - he could go on and become a big pay-per-view star here. I think Frank Warren is looking to put on a few shows in Belfast, so certainly I think Jamie will be headlining there on November the 5th and there's a good chance Paddy will be on that show.

On Monday, Barnes himself reacted angrily to headlines in various Irish publications that he felt unfairly linked him to the Kinahan gang by way of MGM Marbella, with whom Daniel Kinahan manages a number of Irish boxing prospects.

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Barnes, however, won't be training in Marbella, and Macklin - who owns the non-profit Puerto Banus gym (and has no involvement in crime) - is unperturbed by The Irish News and others who took such an angle on the move:

That's up to them - that's up to the media. I'm not really concerned about it, I'm just focused on boxing and doing the best I can for the lads' boxing careers, and get them the best opportunities. People can write what they like - that doesn't concern me. I'm focused on the boxing.

It's understandable that scars remain from events in February. Macklin, however, has both eyes firmly fixed on the future, and more pertinently his fighters' futures.

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Considering the Irish talent at MGM's disposal, Macklin doesn't fully rule out a return to Dublin down the line. But he does insist that his company wishes to manage its fighters and get them on big promotional shows across Ireland, Britain and America - not take the promotional role of hosting its own professional cards unless certain fighters are inactive, as they felt compelled to until recent months:

Well, we're not really promoters. We're just managers, and we were only doing shows just to keep the lads busy, really. We couldn't be reliant on other people and promoters, especially when some of the lads didn't actually have promotional contracts. So we're not really looking to promote and put on cards - we're looking to manage fighters. That's not really a question for me, it's one for whoever wants to put shows on.

Would we ever put shows on there [in Dublin] again? Maybe. Who knows? but at the minute, we can keep all the lads busy and try get them on promotional contracts with Matchroom or Frank Warren or maybe out in America, and that's what we'll focus on.

If you can help them go on and have a great life for themselves, and achieve their potential in boxing, then you'd be proud to play your part in it.

The former three-time world title challenger will now become a key figure in the future of Irish professional boxing, as he steers the careers of two of the sport's crown jewels on either side of the Atlantic.

That reunion of sorts in Belfast next year will be biblical.

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