©Russell Pritchard/Cyclone Promotions

The huge April 4 Odyssey show is sold out and a thrilled Barry McGuigan is expecting plenty of quality bouts to keep an enthusiastic Belfast crowd entertained. The various governing bodies have been contacted and title fights approved. Jamie Conlan will face Benjamin Smoes for the WBO European super-flyweight belt while Eamonn O’Kane will hope to curry favour with the WBC as he tackles Mexico’s Alvaro Gaona for the organisation’s vacant International Silver middleweight title. Four bouts on the night will have belts on the line and if all goes to plan there could be some smaller hall shows planned later in the year for the new breed to flex their muscles on.

“We want to get the fighters good rankings and give the fans a chance to see good quality, competitive fights,” explained Barry McGuigan.

“All of the lads want to fight regularly against tough opposition. The advantage of having these title fights is quite simple. Eamonn O’Kane is already in the top 15 of the IBF [currently ninth] but this next fight will put him up the rankings of another governing body [the WBC] as well. We have to create a chance for these guys to fight for meaningful titles. There are certain aficionados out there who don’t like the various titles but it gives these kids a chance to box 10 and 12 round contests at championship level. They’ve got to be seen at that level before they get the opportunity for big fights.”

Cyclone have since announced the exciting double-signing of Jamie Conlan and Marc McCullough and will look to push the pair into high-profile encounters. Barry views McCullough as the best featherweight in the UK and Ireland behind Lee Selby and even ventured the opinion that in a couple of fights’ time he will be be breathing down the talented Welshman’s neck. He also rates Conlan extremely highly.

“Jamie Conlan’s in a red-hot division that has the likes of Kal Yafai, Ryan Burnett and Paul Butler all in and around. Jamie has the quality and the pedigree to fight and beat any of these guys. Eamonn O’Kane is 31 years old but he’s very well preserved for his age and we’ve not seen the best of him yet. We want to get him into impactful fights.”

One grey area that remains for Conlan is the status of the British and Commonwealth titles. Jamie has been hanging around waiting for a crack at the super-flyweight trinkets for a while and he would even consider a move up to bantamweight should a favourable opportunity present itself. It seemed that with Paul Butler moving up to bantamweight himself then the domestic titles would be made available for other fighters to contest. In keeping with Jamie’s run of bad luck this now appears not to be the case, as the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) contrive to help Butler have his cake and eat it, at two weights.

“We immediately contacted the BBBofC when we heard Butler was moving up and said that we wanted to put Jamie’s name forward for the British or Commonwealth titles and the WBO International title,” said McGuigan.

“According to the British Board, Butler is not going to vacate the title as he is having a trial at bantamweight. I said to the Board that they can’t have it both ways. Because he hasn’t actually vacated the titles they are not yet available, so Jamie won’t be fighting for any of them. Jamie has been on the cusp of title fights for a long time and we want people to see him and know that he is really exceptional.”

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