Michael Conlan has a new opponent for his Belfast homecoming. Conlan, who was originally slated to face former Olympic nemesis Vladimir Nikitin, will take on the dangerous Diego Alberto “El Profeta” Ruiz in a 10-round featherweight showdown Saturday, Aug. 3 at Falls Park as part of the city’s annual Féile an Phobail summer festival.
Nikitin recently pulled out of the fight, citing a biceps injury.
Conlan-Ruiz and the 10-round middleweight showdown between Luke Keeler and Luis Arias will stream live in the United States beginning at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on ESPN+ — the industry-leading sports streaming service — on a special international edition of Top Rank on ESPN.
“When Vladimir Nikitin dropped out due to injury, I told Top Rank and MTK Global to get me the toughest possible opponent,” Conlan said. “Ruiz is on a 10-fight winning streak, and I know he’s coming all the way from Argentina to continue his victorious ways.
“This is my toughest test as a professional, but if I’m going to become a world champion, I must beat Ruiz. I’ve been busy in London with my trainer, Adam Booth, and I can’t wait to put on a show on August 3.
“Maybe once I’m a world champion, I might give Nikitin a shot, but for now, I’m moving on because it was more stalling my career than advancing it in terms of the level I’m at.”
“This is the biggest fight of my career,” Ruiz said. “This is a great opportunity to prove myself as a fighter. I fought June 1, and I am going to be ready for whatever Michael brings. It won’t be an easy fight, but it is not an impossible task. I am not scared to fight on the road. That is my motivation because the pressure will be on him.”
Conlan (11-0, 6 KOs) entered the pro ranks as one of Ireland’s most beloved sporting figures, having earned an Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and gold medals at both the European and World Championships in 2015. “The Conlan Revolution” turned pro in front of a sold-out Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden crowd on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017.
He won the vacant WBO Intercontinental featherweight belt last December in Manchester, England, besting Jason Cunningham via unanimous decision. In his last bout, in front of a raucous St. Patrick’s Day crowd at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Conlan defeated Ruben Garcia Hernandez over 10 rounds.
Ruiz (21-2, 10 KOs), a 25-year-old from Argentina, will be fighting for the first time away from his native country. He has won 10 in a row dating back to 2016 and is coming off a 10-round split decision June 1 over Luis Emanuel Cusolito for the vacant WBC Latino silver featherweight title. Before moving up to the featherweight ranks, Ruiz won the Argentina Boxing Federation’s bantamweight title and the WBC Latino silver super bantamweight belt.