Exclusive: Michael Conlan talks Rio controversy, Vladimir Nikitin withdrawal and future
Irish amateur star Michael Conlan remains in disbelief following his controversial exit from the bantamweight tournament at the ongoing Olympic Games in Rio earlier this week.
The 24 year-old from Belfast was among the pre-competition favourites for gold and heavily backed to pick up a medal in Brazil, that was until Conlan came up against Russian Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter-final last Tuesday.
A close first round was followed by a change in tactics by Conlan, who then seemed to control proceedings enough to take what should have been a routine decision for the judges.
To gasps from the crowd, Nikitin was awarded a unanimous victory over Conlan which sparked an understandable reaction from the current World, European and Commonwealth title holder.
Conlan’s unfathomable defeat saw calls for a complete overhaul of AIBA procedures and led to referees and judges being sent home, plus the reassignment of Executive Director Karim Bouzidi.
Over the past few days, Conlan’s loss continues to dominate the boxing headlines and WBN caught up with the fighter on Friday to gauge his thoughts after a few days of reflection.
“I still feel the same about what happened but it is what it is,” Conlan exclusively told World Boxing News.
“My dream of winning the gold medal has gone and I believe it’s down to corruption. Recent actions by the AIBA seem to be them admitting their guilt, but there’s nothing I can do about it now and I have to move on.
“I was told two days before the fight he was going to win. He shouldn’t have beaten the guy before me either and I’m sure he wouldn’t have reached the final anyway.
“They pulled the appeal process for the first time before this Olympics so that wasn’t an option and all they would say to me is that it was my opinion that I won the fight, but to me the stats don’t lie.”
On Vladimir Nikitin eventually pulling out of a Thursday semi-final with Floyd Mayweather’s new signing Shakur Stevenson due to injuries suffered during their bout, Conlan added:
“If it was me I’d have given anything to have fought for the gold. Maybe he’s embarrassed about what happened and happy to go away with his bronze medal.
“I fought with a bad injury before and it wouldn’t have stopped me,” he said.
So what’s next for Conlan? – Offers to turn pro have unsurprisingly been coming in by the bucket load and are giving the talented fighter some food for thought on his future.
Asked whether he would be interested in speaking to Frank Warren, who currently promotes his brother Jamie, Conlan stated that he would give consideration to anything put on the table.
“I’ll have a chat with Frank or anyone else. I’ll listen to all offers,” stated Conlan.
“I’ve already had some contact from people but all I will say on the matter is that I won’t ever fight in a vest again.
“I’m Ireland’s first ever world amateur champion and I’ve got a great career ahead of me so I’ll make a decision soon on what’s next for me.”