Michael Conlan writes boxing history for Ireland in Doha

Michael Conlan lands a blow on&nbsp;<span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: sans-serif, Arial, Verdana, 'Trebuchet MS';  line-height: 20.8px;">Uzbekistan&rsquo;s Murodjon Akhmadaliev during Wednesday's AIBA World Elite Championships 56kg final in Doha<br /></span>Picture: Sportsfile&nbsp;
Michael Conlan lands a blow on Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev during Wednesday's AIBA World Elite Championships 56kg final i Michael Conlan lands a blow on Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev during Wednesday's AIBA World Elite Championships 56kg final in Doha
Picture: Sportsfile 

EVEN Paddy Barnes will have to admit he’s the history maker after this - Michael Conlan created Irish boxing history at the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha, Qatar on Wednesday.

The Belfast bantam got off the floor to beat Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev on a unanimous decision – 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 – to become the first Irish male boxer to claim AIBA World Elite gold. The Irish captain appeared to be on his way to victory, but was felled by a massive right hook in the final 40 seconds of a fiery 56kg clash.

“It was probably the best punch I have ever been hit with. I’ve never been down in my life. It caught me spot on,” admitted the first Irishman to finish on top of the podium at a World Men’s Elite Championships since Ireland entered the inaugural tournament in Havana in 1974.

Conlan switched to southpaw and surprisingly met fire with fire with the aggressive Uzbek in the first, both boxers going into the trenches and having their moments in a fiery opening three minutes - but the Team Ireland skipper took the round on two cards.

Akhmadaliev walked straight into a flashing right from Conlan early in the second, with all three judges giving the stanza to the European Elite champion, whose cleaner shots ultimately took the round, although the 20-year-old Uzbek once again had his moments.

Conlan went back to picking off his shots and moving in the third and looked to be on his way to a clear-cut verdict, but the London 2012 bronze medallist, his forward momentum increasing the velocity of the shot, went down under a big right in the final 30 seconds. It was a tremendous punch, but Conlan got back on his feet and rattled his opponent one last time en route to ending the 41-year wait for an AIBA male gold.

“I’m actually speechless," added Conlan, “Billy Walsh [Irish coach] said to me that I’ll probably have to go to war here. I knew I had to beat him at his own game.

“It’s been great with the coaches. The work my dad has put in with me since I was seven, it’s been fantastic to come here and do this. To come here and make history for Ireland is something special.”

Conlan, who has qualified for the 2016 Olympics through the World Series of Boxing, also picked up 1,200 ranking points for Wednesday night’s win, which will ensure he is seeded near to top, if not the top, at next summer’s Games in Rio.

While Conlan was celebrating, Michael O'Reilly was denied a place at the Rio Olympics following a controversial defeat to Egyptian middle Hossam Abdin. Both men met in a box-off for Rio 2016 – the top three in the 75kg class in Doha qualify for the 31st Olympiad.

O'Reilly out-punched his opponent in the opening two rounds, two, and three to one at some stages, but the Egyptian was awarded both frames 10-9 across the board to lead 20-18 going into the third.

O'Reilly did win the third, which was probably Abdin's best round, but it wasn't enough to reverse a perplexing 29-28 defeat on all cards. O'Reilly, who will be bringing home bronze, and the Irish corner left the ring shaking their heads at what was, by any standards, a controversial decision.

Joe Ward will be in action on Thursday versus Cuba’s Julio La Cruz, looking to add to Conlan’s gold medal win. La Cruz, who beat Ward in the 2013 World Elite light-heavy semi-final, is targeting his third successive AIBA World title. Ward is aiming to become the first international boxer to win World Junior, Youth and Elite gold medals.

Team Ireland are due to arrive home at 5.10pm on Friday afternoon via Dublin Airport.