Mick Conlan turned in the rehab performance he needed to get back on track, dominating perennial contender Miguel Marriaga over ten rounds on Saturday at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Conlan (17-1, 8 knockouts) scored knockdowns in the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds to win by the scores of 99-88 on two cards and 99-89 on the third.
Marriaga (30-6, 26 KOs) never showed any urgency until the tenth round, but it was too little too late for the Colombian contender, who has now lost three of his last four bouts.
Conlan, 30, was fighting for the first time since his devastating twelfth round knockout loss to Leigh Wood in March, and showed the discipline to box against the dangerous, if, at age 35, past-prime Marriaga.
“I had to get rid of a lot of demons tonight. Even in the fucking last round, he hit me with a shot. That guy can punch,” admitted Conlan, a two-time Irish Olympian.
Conlan faced little adversity in the fight until the three-time title challenger reminded him just why he had been a top featherweight for nearly a decade.
“In the last round, he caught me with a shot. Listen, I’ve been using my legs all night. I was a bit off the pace. He was pushing it. He landed a good shot. He buckled me a little bit. I felt it, and for me, to kind of come through that and it’s the last round… I got knocked out in my last fight in the last round. I think that says a lot. I’m back, baby. I’m ready for any of them.”
Conlan says he’d prefer to go straight to a rematch with Wood, who is set to have a purse bid for his mandatory showdown with WBA featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz on August 12.
“I want Leigh Wood. It’s obvious, but Leigh has his own situation. So, hopefully he can deal with that and come through and the rematch can be done. If not, it’s any other champion.
“I want to get back in. I will be world champion, and I know I will. Whoever I face, I know I’ll beat him.”
The card was promoted by Top Rank and aired live on ESPN+ in the United States.