In an exclusive WBN interview, undefeated super bantamweight prospect Mick Conlan revealed a Belfast homecoming clash with former amateur foe Vladimir Nikitin is on the cards for 2019.
Conlan suffered a controversial defeat to Nikitin in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics bantamweight quarter-final.
The pre-tournament favourite lost on the judges’ scorecards despite most experts believing the Irishman produced enough to win.
Both fighters have since turned professional with legendary promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank stable ahead of a rematch.
“The Nikitin fight has been in the pipeline since Top Rank signed him up,” Belfast-born Conlan explained to World Boxing News.
“We’re all working very closely together, and have been for some months to get something big in place for next year in Belfast.
“There’s a possibility it could be New York, there’s a little bit of talk. But, we want it in Belfast next year during an Irish festival.
“It’s very very likely that I’ll have a homecoming next year in an outdoor arena. It’ll be the second time I’ve fought in Belfast.
“It would be great to headline and be the main event in a big arena. Especially during an Irish festival that’s essentially in my back garden, near a park where I grew up in. I spent many a day there as a child.
Conlan, who claimed a flyweight bronze medal in the 2012 Games, was left angry and out of medal contention by the judges in Rio, ending his Olympic gold medal dream.
And insult was added to injury when, due to damage inflicted by Conlan, Nikitin was forced to withdraw from the next round. This prompted the Irishman’s promotional team to snap the Russian up when he decided to turn pro.
“When I heard Nikitin was going pro, I said to Bob ‘makes sure you sign the Russian.’
“Bob sees what happened before as a storyline, a selling point and a way to build the fight and my journey to the top. There’s a wrong that obviously needs to be put right.”
And Conlan believes his former Olympic advisory has an axe to grind himself.
“I think the reason Nikitin signed with Top Rank was to face me.
“Obviously, he doesn’t want to be remembered for that controversial decision in the Olympics which he won over me. There’s something in his head too.
“To be fair, that’s probably not the way he’s going to want to be remembered. He probably wants to right that wrong for himself.
“And I can understand where he’s coming from, it wasn’t his fault, he’s just a fighter. It works out well that we’re both with Top Rank.”
Unsurprisingly, the decision in Brazil two-years ago prompted Conlan to turn his back on amateur boxing – a major part of his psyche. However, Conlan remains focused on revenge.
“I really want to face him and I don’t think I can focus on any other champions and fighters until I avenge this loss.
“I have no ill-feeling towards Nikitin. But I have ill-feeling towards that result and the stain on my career. Even though it was a springboard into the professional game for me.
“The defeat acted as a good platform for me, so that’s how I look at it. But the result will always be there in the history books.
“It will always say that I lost in an Olympic quarterfinal to Vladimir Nikitin, it won’t say that it was a questionable decision, so that’s what I want to rewrite.
With that, Conlan expects fireworks, making a prediction as bold as his fighting style.
“It won’t go to the judges this time. I actually don’t believe it would last six rounds,” he concluded.
James Copley is a Staff Writer for World Boxing News. Follow James on Twitter @JamesCopley73