THE Michael Conlan express rolls into Tucson, Arizona this Friday night (Saturday morning Irish time) as he looks to make it four wins from four against Kenny Guzman who has similar ambitions.
The LA-based West Belfast man has enjoyed a trio of third-round stoppage wins to date since making his professional debut in Madison Square Garden on St Patrick's Day and after a summer break at home following his last win over Jarrett Owen on Brisbane back in July, is raring to go as the new season begins.
“I'm looking forward to going in and getting this camp over because it's been a tough camp,” said the 25 year-old on his way to training at Manny Robles' Rock Gym in Carson, California as he began winding down ahead of Friday's fight night.
“This has been the toughest camp of my career so far. I have learned a lot. It's been hard sparring, hard work, hard training so I'll be glad to see the back of it to be honest.”
It is clear the training wheels as a pro are now starting to come off for Conlan as he begins his ascent up the rankings towards titles.
He is happy with how things have been moving thus far, but admits the transition inside and outside the ring has taken a little time.
“It's building well now,” he continued.
“It's been a year since I signed my pro contract. It's been a quick year with that, but at the same time, this is only my fourth fight now because I didn't start fighting until March.
“I'm feeling good, but it's been tough, really tough. This adjustment has been hard. Obviously being away from home for almost a year and being out of your comfort zone is very tough. It's always going to be tough but it's what makes you great.”
Conlan certainly isn't getting things easy in the gym.
This Friday's bill is topped by two world title fights involving WBO featherweight champion, Oscar Valdez who defends against Genesis Servania and WBO super-middleweight holder, Gilberto Ramirez who puts his belt on the line against Jesse Hart.
Conlan knows these men well as he and Valdez are trained by Manny Robles while Ramirez trains at The Rock under Hector Zapari, so having world champions for company on a daily basis is a great motivator, but also means he is pushed to the limit in training by world class fighters.
“I share a ring there with Oscar and Jesse (Magdaleno, WBO super-bantamweight champion) and other contenders who just come to the gym,” he reports.
“The gym we're in in southern California is probably the most popular gym for sparring anyway.
“It's like the new Wild Card (Freddie Roach's gym in LA) because everybody comes to our gym so you're getting the best in sparring. You aren't going to get tougher.
“I'll be honest, it is tough. There are some days you are thinking 'I couldn't be annoyed sparring because I know it's going to be a hard day and a hard session'. You have always going to be on your game.”
With Valdez and Ramirez hogging the limelight this week, Conlan can quietly get on with his business of preparing for his fourth pro outing.
Having his name in lights is no bad thing of course, but it brings an added distraction of having to promote the event and drum up interest.
Being able to just concentrate on his boxing at this stage of his career is fine by him too.
“It's big advantage and something I enjoy, not having to worry about any of that,” he agrees.
“I enjoy being top of the bill, don't get me wrong. It's not that it's less of a worry, but maybe less of a job having to do all that media stuff. It's less of a distraction.”
That is bad news for Guzman this weekend who will be the latest to try and spring a surprise.
The 30 year-old comes in with an identical 3-0 record as Conlan, but little is known about the Montana native who steps up to six rounds for the first time.
On paper, this ought to be a step up for Conlan, but he is hoping this translates into a much more ambitious opponent who will try to make a fight of it and therefore, test him more than his other pro victims.
“I don't know much about him. I've seen something like a 40-second clip,” he admits.
“He has the same record as me, so know he's going to come in not wanting to lose. I'm expecting a game opponent, a live opponent and someone who's going to try and test me. I'm looking forward to see how I perform and what this opponent brings out of me.
“To progress as a fighter, you need people who are going to test you.
“Even though it's early days still (as a professional), I would like someone who wants to win. We expected the last two opponents to come to win, even the first one. All of my opponents have had winning records, so I have expected them to come to win, but they just haven't. I think the last guy (Owen), he came out in the first few seconds, but then he got hit and didn't want to win.”
His three pro contests have all ended in the third round, so a similar outcome against Guzman would be ideal, yet gaining the experience of going six rounds is also something that will stand to him with five rounds in the WSB the longest he has been in competitive action.
Either way, it's all about the win and making it four from four as his march up the ladder gathers pace.
“I like the third round, it's a nice round for me,” he admits.
“At the same time, this guy's undefeated so it's going to be different. On paper it is different anyway.
“I'll just go in there with the same attitude as always. I'll plan to go the distance, but if it goes early, it goes early. I'll be looking for the stoppage, but I'll have it in me to go the distance if needs be.”