Michael Conlan: My Olympic dream was robbed from me
MICHAEL Conlan ripped off his red vest, and then ripped into world boxing’s governing body after his Olympic dream was left in tatters following yesterday’s shocking quarter-final exit to Vladimir Nikitin.
Even by the standards of a competition that is fast developing a reputation for poor decisions, the unanimous verdict awarded to Conlan’s Russian opponent was a stinker.
The Belfast fighter appeared to have won at least two of the three rounds, with the pair hard to split in the third. Yet somehow the three judges contrived to score the fight 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 in Nikitin’s favour.
Rumours circulating in Rio last night suggested that AIBA officials, including the organisation’s president Dr Wu, were reviewing the fight – but a spokesman for boxing’s governing body confirmed there was “no way” the result would be overturned.
Boos howled around the stunned Riocentro Pavilion when the decision was announced, with Conlan quickly removing his vest in what is highly likely to have been his last ever amateur fight before – in his rage – giving the middle finger to the judges at ringside.
In a television interview conducted minutes after the fight, Russian head coach Alexander Lebzjak apologised for the decision.
That will come as little consolation for Conlan, though, as yesterday’s result means Ireland’s boxers will return home from an Olympic Games empty-handed for the first time since Athens in 2004.
“I’m absolutely devastated. My Olympic dream was robbed from me today,” said the 24-year-old.
“It has been a horrendous week for Irish boxing, people are saying, but it has been a horrendous week of scoring for Irish boxing. We haven’t got any favours.”
Despite the first round being surprisingly scored against him, Conlan said he still felt confident that he would get the win that would take him through to a semi-final with America’s Shakur Stevenson.
He added: “I knew I had an engine to go and keep on going back.
“I was hurting him. I hit him a shot and he yelped in the ring. I thought I annihilated him in the second round.
“The third round was a bit closer, I’ll give him that, but even at that I thought I had still done enough to win. It is what it is.
“AIBA are killing people’s lifelong work.”
Plenty of observers questioned the decision that saw Katie Taylor leave the Olympic Games after her first fight the day previous, but what transpired yesterday was much more controversial.
Late on Monday night, Conlan watched as Kazakh heavyweight Vassilly Levit was on the receiving end of a terrible decision against Russian heavyweight Evgeny Tischenko, but not for one second did he consider that such misfortune would fall on him.
“No, not at all,” he continued.
“I watched the heavyweight final last night and after what happened to Katie, I thought ‘that can’t happen to me’. But it did.
“We’ve seen the Russian’s reaction after. He didn’t believe he won, I didn’t believe he won, the crowd didn’t believe he won. I don’t even think his corner believed he won and he reacted like he had won an Olympic gold medal.
“I was here for gold. My Olympic dream has been ruined. I’ll never box in AIBA competition again.
“If you watch this Olympic Games and you’ve seen some of the decisions, Olympic boxing is dead.”
Conlan has previously spoken of his intention to join brother Jamie in the professional ranks after the Olympic Games, but when asked what the future held for him now, his only response was: “One thing’s for sure, I’ll not be boxing in an AIBA competition again.”