THERE is no easing into 2023 for Conor Quinn as the former Clonard amateur will step-up to eight rounds on his first career headline slot on Saturday as he bids to improve to 5-0-1 against England’s Stephen Maguire.

Quinn had been left wondering if he would ever fight again as medical issues forced him out of the ring for over two-and-a-half-years, but he returned at the Belfast city centre hotel last September, forced to settle for a draw against Darwin Martinez.

It wasn’t the comeback he had hoped for, but given what had gone before, it represented a barely a ruffle as he powered to a stoppage win over Mikey Young at Girdwood in November and then got a taste of the big time with a points win over Stephen Jackson on the undercard of Conlan-Guerfi at the SSE Arena in December to close what proved to be a hectic last third of 2022.

Having lost so much time in his career, there is no intention to slow down, so Quinn will lift it another level on Saturday night and he feels the three fights in quick succession has helped him get things fully on track ahead of his opening fight of what could be a very exciting 2023.

“This is something you look towards, but it’s brilliant that Mark (Dunlop, manager) has given me the opportunity to do this so early in my career and get a taste of what it was like,” he said.

“At the start of your career, you want to be active and I had three fights towards the end of the year, sampling a bit of everything.

“The first fight back was on the Eric Donovan show at the European and then the Girdwood show was amazing - one of the best boxing events I’ve been at, never mind having fight on. Then to get a taste of a big stadium show at the SSE Arena on a Conlan Boxing show was great, just even to see how other people work, so it was a great experience.”

Shifting tickets and building a profile on top of a boxing record can be an irksome part of the job for a developing pro, but the West Belfast flyweight is delighted to be in this position having spent so long on the outside looking in.

“It feels like a lifetime ago when I wasn’t able to box,” he continued.

“Now, it feels like when people stop me in the street, they are asking when the next one is rather than asking what is going open with my career.

“It’s great to be back in that mix and to be recognised as an active fighter. I was probably one of the most active fighters towards the end of last year and that all stems from Mark. Colm Murphy was the same last year with five fights and that’s all we can ask for at young pros.

“Some don’t get to start their year until March/April and some like that as they can enjoy their Christmas. I’ve had plenty of Christmases over the past couple of years where I wasn’t able to box, so I was onto Mark telling him I’d be ready to go as early as possible in the year, so that means by April/May when some only get going, I could have two or three fights by then.”

The 24-year-old was a classy amateur so has a proven skillset and over the past couple of outings, has visibly settled back into life in the ring.

It was understandable his return against Martinez was a night for blowing off the cobwebs and getting a feel for the 8oz gloves again, but now there is a sense he is ready to go through the gears.

The plan for the year ahead is to continue his development, increase the rounds and level of opposition with the direction of travel towards a domestic title within the next 12 months.

Therefore, a good start is imperative and this weekend against Maguire will let him test the pace over eight and settle there before lifting it again.

“This is just my sixth professional fight, but I’ve had 150-odd amateur fights from six years old, so I want to press on a little quicker,” he insists.

“If I step into eight rounds this week, I can put onto 10-round fights and that’s you into title fights with the likes of Commonwealth and British by the end of the year or early next year as I’d be eligible for them. This will be a good test this week over eight rounds, but it will benefit me and also suit my style.

“The British and Commonwealth titles are so prestigious and especially in the lighter weight divisions. Years ago when people were a lot smaller then now, the memorable fights were always flyweight or bantamweight British title fights and I would love to put my name in amongst that history.

“If you win those then it’s a milestone and something I would love to work towards.”