Lopez-Conlan set for May 27 in Belfast

Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez may have to start calling himself “The Road Warrior.” Lopez will make the first defense of his IBF featherweight world title against Michael “Mick” Conlan on Saturday, May 27, at The SSE Arena in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast.

Lopez captured the title last December, venturing to Josh Warrington’s home base of Leeds, England, to grind out a majority decision.

Lopez-Conlan and undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States. BT Sport will broadcast the event in the UK and Ireland.

Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico, navigated bumpy terrain to become a world champion. After early-career defeats to Abraham Montoya and Ruben Villa stunted his momentum, Lopez thrilled American fight fans with his July 2020 split decision victory over Andy Vences inside the MGM Grand Bubble. Fourteen months later, he dominated then-unbeaten junior lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. over 10 rounds. Lopez then moved down to featherweight and stopped another undefeated foe, Isaac Lowe, in seven rounds at London’s York Hall. After two stay-busy wins, he received his shot at the title, turning an expected triumphant Leeds homecoming into disappointment for the partisan fans.

“I am a road warrior. Traveling to my opponent’s home country doesn’t faze me,” Lopez said. “I won my world title in Leeds, and now it’s time to defend it in Belfast. The louder they cheer for Michael, the harder I will fight. The IBF title will remain in Mexico. May 27 will be a special night for me, and Michael’s fans will go home disappointed.”

Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) turned pro in 2017 after a decorated Irish amateur career that included two Olympic berths, an Olympic bronze medal, and gold medals at the World Championships, European Championships, and Commonwealth Games. His double middle finger salute to the judges at the 2016 Rio Olympics turned him into a fighting folk hero, and as a pro, he has proven himself on the world stage. Last March, he nearly captured the WBA featherweight crown from Leigh Wood in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham, England. Conlan, ahead on all three scorecards, was knocked out in the 12th round of ESPN’s Fight of the Year. The Wood disappointment did not linger, as Conlan came back later that year with victories over Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi at The SSE Arena. Five months after knocking out Guerfi in one round, Conlan returns to the friendly SSE Arena confines, prepared to seize his championship moment.

“This is a massive opportunity. Fighting for the world title in Belfast is something I’ve always dreamed of, and I will be taking this opportunity with both hands.” Conlan said. “The SSE Arena will be buzzing, and I will do everything I can to bring a world title home. Credit to Lopez for coming to Belfast, but I am taking his title. He is not prepared for what is coming his way on May 27. Ireland will see a new champion crowned.”

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