|Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Sport Chairman:|
“As I’ve said before, almost ten years since Carl Froch’s historic victory in Nottingham Arena, we’ve been looking to bring a mega-fight back to this city for some time. 10,000 sell-out on Saturday and the atmosphere is going to be incredible, 3000-4000 Irish also in attendance for what will be a tremendous match-up.
“This Saturday we have a solid undercard, so many great fights, great fighters, great prospects. People returning to the World Championship scene, people looking to make their mark in the world rankings.
“Just under 10,000 people in a sold-out arena will see a great fight with an incredible atmosphere. Huge support from the city of Nottingham and a huge number of Irish fans coming to see if Michael Conlan can become World Champion.”
“I’m buzzing to be here, it’s been a long hard road to get here, back in 2014 that was a terrible night. I knew the reasons behind it, and I went away and corrected it. Same with both of the defeats I’ve suffered, I went away, changed my team and improved as a fighter. I stayed disciplined, lived the life and that’s why I’m bringing this big night back to Nottingham, I couldn’t be happier.
“I couldn’t be happier with my camp, my team, everything is on point. As Mick said, I’ve got the best version of him and he’s got the best version of me, there’s no excuses after the fight the best man will win.
“We rocked up at fight camp and people were basically saying good luck, thanks for turning up, we were taken aback and didn’t know what to say to them. I said in interviews I was going to win the fight, confidence has never been an issue with me, I’ve been confident when most kids didn’t have anything to smile about, I’ve been confident in the gym without fights and through injuries and defeats. I was confident in my ability and that I’d get there, now I’m here.
“This is fairy-tale sh*t, honestly, of all the arenas for Carl I was at in the seats screaming, I’m now headlining in the same arena. This isn’t the peak or where I stop, I’m going to go further than this. The city ground fight that you’ve tangled in front of me for so long, you [Eddie] said after this fight it’s happening, so I’ll hold you to that but eyes on Saturday night first. I’m coming to get the job done and look good doing it.”
“I’m over the moon with the training camp that Leigh’s had, preparation doesn’t stop until the first bell but we’re ready and very confident. Leigh knows exactly what he needs to do and it’s just a case of getting in there and doing it now.
“I think it’s just very easy for people to go ‘Mick on points’ or ‘Leigh by stoppage’, that’s the outcome people can see but as I said before I think Mick punches harder than people think and Leigh boxes better than what people think he does. People said the same thing when Leigh was boxing Can Xu, he can only win by knockout, not only did he nearly beat him quite widely by points, but he beat him in the twelfth round.
“I don’t believe that this is the two possible outcomes of the fight, I think both guys are very versatile and potentially momentum shifts throughout the fight and adjustments will have to made by both. It’s a fantastic fight and that’s why we’ve got a sold-out arena.
“I highly expect Leigh to thrive under this situation, I don’t think there’s any problems, Leigh’s one of the calmest fighters I’ve worked with in the changing room preparing for a fight. It’s just a case of getting in there and doing what he needs to do now.”
“I’m ready to go, my confidence comes from 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 more to say other than I really can’t wait for Saturday night.
“I know what kind of performance is coming on Saturday night, this is the most relaxed and calm I’ve ever been in a fight week. I don’t feel any pressure, I’m here in the opponents back garden and I’ve got to rip the belt off him. Everyone’s here to see him, I’ve got fans coming in the thousands already so it’s nothing new.
“I’m just here to do a job, I hope Leigh has had a fantastic training camp, I hope he’s the best Leigh Wood there’s ever been because I believe I will be. It’ll make it all the sweeter when I beat him.
“I’m just expecting a fantastic performance by myself.”
“We came here six weeks ago full of confidence, we’ve come here today even more confident. Confident in the preparation that was put in over the last eight week, confident in the mindset that he’s brought into this fight and the mental attitude that he’s put into the camp and the challenges he’s faced in camp. We’ve come here to upset the applecart and spoil your boy’s party – send the Irish home happy.
“I fully expect Michael to become World Champion on Saturday. Regarding favourites and underdogs, we have no real thought on that. We’ve come in as the B side fighter and underdog mentality but we’re fully confident we’ll become world champion. I truly believe this is his destiny, Leigh Wood is just an obstacle in his way that we must overcome. This is Michael Conlan’s party, this is the one he’s coming to take home, and this is the one that the fans will be able to sing about and tell each other about in bars for years to come.
“I think that’s something that Leigh’s going to have to deal with, the mental stress he’s going to be under, I saw it last night when he was doing his workout. There’s going to mental pressure on him more so than on Michael, Michael has dealt with mental pressure throughout his career. He was thrown into the spotlight from day one, Leigh has done it when no one was watching, he won the world title in front of 25 people in your [Eddie] back garden.
“This is the big time, this is going to be where everyone is pressuring him on, expecting him to win – in his hometown as the favourite. In our hometown we’re the favourite, so the fans coming over are fully expecting Michael to win, fully expecting to be joyous on Saturday and going home with a new World Champion. As a family we’re just ready, we’ve been waiting for this for a long time, destiny is in front of us and Leigh is just another object in the way.”
Caoimhin Agyarko:“I want to thank you [Eddie] for getting me on this card, especially straight after Christmas. It’s the opportunities I feel like I deserve, and I’ve been working hard, it’s a great card to be on and it’s going to be a very noisy night on Saturday. I can’t wait to just get in there and put on a good performance.
“We hoped to get the Hassan N’Dam fight, former World Champion, but he’s got a good record and I expect a tough fight Saturday night. I’ve prepared well and I’ve been sparring great, everything’s went to plan in camp, and I have no complaints. I just can’t wait to get in there and put on a good performance, I feel like you’re going to see a different side to my game on Saturday – Rubio being a southpaw. I feel like he’ll bring out the best in me in terms of that I can box a bit more and open up a bit more.
“That’s the plan, I want to headline shows in Belfast, it’s a great to be on this card with three other Irish fighters. I spent time on the Irish team with Garry and Thomas, I’ve boxed with Mick at training camps and he’s from my hometown. It’s a great opportunity for me on this card but the plan is to go back home, and headline shows by the end of the year. I feel like after this fight or one more in the summer I’ll be ready for a big name.”
Juan Carlos Rubio:
“I really enjoy taking on challenges and this will be another one for me. We did take the fight on very short notice, but we were already preparing, running and training waiting for this opportunity which presented itself.
“I’m going to come and give everything on Saturday, I want to give thanks to the champ for giving me the opportunity but yeah I’ll give it everything on Saturday.”
“It’s like I’ve never left now back at Lightweight. I’ve been trying to explain to my Grandma about moving up in weight and she said it’s only 5 pounds, but that 5 pounds makes a huge difference. I had a good training session and feel like I’ve got weeks of training left in me and I’m full of energy.
“I’m just happy to be back and excited to get back out there on Saturday night, show everyone what I’ve been working on. This camp was about taking everything back to the drawing board, going back to basics and making slight changes that have been needed to be made for a while.
“The fight’s been and gone now, it was a lesson learnt the hard way and I’m just excited to be here in the new weight division. I’m fully focused on what’s ahead and what’s to come this year.
“After the last fight I thought, everyone was going to go off and disappear but to be fair I’ve probably got more fans. I’m just grateful to everyone who’s been there since day one and we’re on this journey together through the highs and lows, I’m doing it for them really and they’re the reason I’m here.”
Yamila Belen Abellaneda:
“Here we are accepting the challenge, it was put to us, and I’m really pleased to be here. Once the offer came in, we took it with both hands.
“That’s what we’re here for. We’ve come here and put the work in, we’ve come to win.”
“I’ve been looking for this chance, calling your name since I was 2-0. I’m excited that it’s finally here, I’ve got a great opponent in front of me in Miguel Vazquez who’s been there and done it. It’s a big test for me as well and I’m looking forward to putting on an explosive performance on Saturday.
“I think 2022 is the year that I plan on making a statement in the world rankings and stepping up in challenge and winning World Titles, Vazquez is the first step in doing so. I’ve been building on the down low on the MTK shows, the smaller hall scene for the last couple of years putting in big performances. This is my first kind of show on the big stage and I’m looking forward to showing everyone what I can do.”
“I’m really happy to be here in the UK. I’m facing a great opponent so it’s great to have this opportunity once again to show people in the UK that I’m still a big thing in boxing.
“Apart from whether or not I won or lost that fight, whether it was a robbery, you can call it what you like. I’m just so happy to be back again on these shores and show again what I can do in the UK, it’s a wonderful country and I’m so happy to be here.”
“This is what I want, I said I want someone who’s coming to win, she’s trained for ten rounds like it’s a World Title. It’s going to be a good fight; I respect her as a fighter and she has fought great champions but I’m different and she’ll see that Saturday night.
“I’m going to make the fight the pace I want to make it at, we’ve got a good plan me and Cliff. Honestly, if I have to outbox this girl I will, if I have to go to war I’ll go to war.
“Even now the people are seeing it’s too early, when I believe in myself and my team believes in me, you’ll believe in me after this fight. I’m just ready for anybody.”
Erica Anabella Farias:
“When I was offered this fight, most fights I’ve had in my career have been for World Titles, so I train as if it’s a World Title fight and I’ve been training as if this was a World Title fight. I’m always ready and accept the big challenges and I think champions are built over time, so I’ll be facing up as if this is a World Title fight.
“I live for this sport; I enjoy every single moment whether it’s the press conference of the weigh-in. Like I said, I’m focused for every fight like it’s a World Title fight so you can expect me to go into the fight and coming out victorious. What I would say to Sandy Ryan is to keep her guard up.”
“I remember when I first got the call and got told that I’d me on this card, it’s literally 20 minutes up the road from me – it’s my home city. I’m blessed to make my pro debut on such a big card, on my mate’s undercard as he defends his World Title in my home city. I’ll just need to go in there now and make a good transition from amateur to the pros and put on a good performance.
“We’ve got a good boxing scene in Nottingham and the surrounding areas, to get boxing in the city and on the big cards on TV is only good exposure and it’s going to spur everyone on in their careers. I think it’s good to put Nottingham and Mansfield in the spotlight.”
“Me and Dillian had a chat after the last one and we were looking to make a bit of a plan and see when get out again. It made the most sense to get me on this card, I was calling for it to be honest because I knew it would be a massive event and as you can see it. Big shoutout to Dillian, Matchroom and the team for sorting it.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday, I have a lot of people coming over to watch me. People from Dublin haven’t been given many chances to go on big cards, to get the crowd over for big cards as of late. I’m absolutely delighted there will be a big crowd coming over on Saturday and hopefully progress on to the Irish Title before the end of the year. I’ll be the first person then to win it since Tyson Fury so looking forward to that.”
Thomas Whittaker Hart:
“I’ve had a terrible couple of years thinking my career was going to be over in the last twelve months but thankfully it’s not. I’ve got a good opportunity on another good show, I want to push on for titles at the end of the year.
“I want to try and get my hands on the British Title by the end of the year, it’s what I thought about a lot when I wasn’t too well and out of the ring. That’s all I could think about, not being there and not having those belts, it’s made me hungry and want it more – it could have done a lot for me as well.”