At the age of 24, Michael is a sensational prospect at 122 pounds. A former amateur standout at the international level – he was a gold medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 European Championships and the 2015 World Championships, and represented Ireland at the 2016 Olympics. He debuted March 17, St, Patrick’s day, to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael reported [Sept. 19, 2016 – excerpts]: Michael Conlan, the 2016 Irish Olympic medal favorite who was controversially eliminated in the quarterfinals of the bantamweight tournament at the Rio de Janeiro Games, is going pro.
Conlan signed a multiyear deal with Top Rank and will fight primarily in the United States.
He began his career in the 122-pound junior featherweight division.
“I think this is an incredible signing for Top Rank and incredible for boxing in America, because he will fight the majority of his fights here in the U.S., building a big fan base in the Irish community,” duBoef said. “We think he is the next big star in boxing in America. There’s a huge Irish population here in the United States.”
“I’m really looking forward to all of this,” Conlan told ESPN.com. “I couldn’t be with a better team than Top Rank. They’ll take me to a world title. I’m looking forward to the journey.”
Conlan said he loves the idea of turning pro on St. Patrick’s Day weekend in New York, where Irish boxing fans have a reputation for giving their fighters tremendous support.
“I think it’s every Irish fighter’s dream to fight on that weekend in New York,” Conlan said. “It’s going to be big. I’ll take the opportunity with both hands.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has signed several Olympians through the years and developed them into world champions and pay-per-view stars, including Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. He believes Conlan will follow in their footsteps.
“This kid, I feel, is something special,” Arum said. “There’s something about this kid. He has a lovely personality and, obviously, based on what my matchmakers say, he has ability, which is what counts. As far as his personality, he lights up the room. The fans are going to love this kid. I’m going to hit all the Irish cities – New York, Boston and over in Ireland also.”
Conlan’s elimination from the Rio Olympics in a decision loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in the bantamweight quarterfinals was one of the most controversial of the boxing tournament and partly responsible for the International Boxing Association (AIBA), which oversees amateur boxing, sending several judges and referees home from the tournament for failure to perform up to the expected standard.
Conlan said the judging controversy in Rio will drive him as a professional but that he will get over it.
“I think what happened will be the driving force for me to become the greatest Irish fighter ever, because it will give me a kick, like it did for Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather,” Conlan said, referring to Jones’ and Mayweather’s controversial losses in Olympic bouts. “I can get over things really fast, and I can push on. I won’t forget it, but now I will focus on becoming a world champion and a star with Top Rank.”
Conlan, who won a flyweight bronze medal at the 2012 London Games and gold medals at the 2015 World Amateur Championships and European Championships, is the most decorated Irish amateur in history. Now he aims to be Ireland’s greatest professional fighter.
“I think I have a great following already, and my goal is to be Ireland’s greatest ever fighter,” Conlan said. “I believe I can be that. I think I’m the guy to do that. I will give the Irish fans something to shout about. I think I can be a three-weight world champion.”
Conlan, whose 29-year-old brother, Jamie Conlan (17-0, 11 KOs), is a professional featherweight, said his aim is to win a title at junior featherweight and then move up to win world titles at featherweight and junior lightweight.
Top Rank also signed several Olympians after the 2012 Games, including two-time Ukrainian gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, who has gone on to win featherweight and junior lightweight world titles, and Mexico’s Oscar Valdez, who won a featherweight world title in July.
Arum said he is always interested in signing the cream of the crop from the amateurs.
“We’re not crazy, so we’re not running after a million guys,” Arum said. “We want only quality. Conlan is quality. In the old days we had to run after people, and now they run to us because of our reputation. They know we know how to build a fighter into a superstar.” [End Rafael item]
From the Belfast Telegraph, by Steven Beacom [Aug. 20, 2016 – excerpts]: Michael Conlan has become one of the stories of the 2016 Olympic Games after he was the victim of a staggering judging decision in his bantamweight clash with Russian Vladimir Nikitin.
While the fans inside the boxing arena and all those watching on television were convinced that World Amateur Champion Conlan had comfortably won the three-round contest, the judges gave a unanimous verdict to Nikitin, who subsequently was unable to take his place in the semi-final due to injury, having been outclassed by the Team Ireland star.
Understandably, Conlan was furious about the decision and in an RTE television interview immediately after the fight he let rip at the judges and the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the amateur sport’s governing body, claiming the organisation was corrupt and insisting he had been “robbed.”
Since the fight, the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion has been spending quality time with his fiancee Shauna and daughter Luisne, soaking up the sun on Copacabana beach in Rio. Michael’s mother Teresa and father John, who coaches the Irish boxing team, are also out in Brazil, along with his brother Jamie, an accomplished professional boxer.
They have been hit hard at seeing a dream ripped away from their boy in such contentious circumstances.
For the man himself, considered one of Ireland’s finest ever amateur boxers, the pain remains – so much so that he had to leave the Olympic Village.
“I am still hurting,” said Conlan. “I had to get out of the Olympic Village and spend time with my family otherwise I would have gone mental.
“I haven’t seen Shauna and Luisne in a long time, so it is great to spend time with them and the rest of my family.
“Family is the most important part of my life, and it always will be.”
He hopes his hard-hitting words will make a difference for other amateur boxers in years to come, so that they don’t have to suffer the way he has. “After the fight was over I felt robbed and got a lot off my chest right away,” said the charismatic young man, who was crowned the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.
“I used some crazy words in a television interview immediately afterwards, but I wouldn’t take them back because they were my true emotions at that time. I was honest with myself and honest with every single person who had tuned in to watch.
“If I hadn’t have said what I said I would probably feel even worse now. Seeing the reaction it had in terms of getting a message out there, I am glad that I did it.
“I know some people weren’t happy with the words I used, but that interview and the reaction it has had has opened the eyes of the world to the corruption in amateur boxing. Hopefully, what I have said can change amateur boxing, and what happened to me won’t happen as much to other boxers.”
“In the dressing room all these people were coming up to me, from the Cuban boxing team to the GB boxing team, and telling me I had won the fight. They were devastated by what happened. All the boxing people knew what went on.”
What has been heartening for the Belfast native has been the incredible support he has received since being cruelly dumped out of a competition he was widely expected to win.
The boxing fraternity has backed him, along with commentators and members of the public, who couldn’t believe that the Russian walked away the victor when it appeared Conlan had won every single round.
Conlan was keen to thank everyone who has been behind him since Tuesday’s travesty.
“The support I have had from everyone has been unbelievable, from people at home to people all over the world, and I can’t thank everyone enough for the way they have supported me,” the boxer told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I want to tell everyone how much their messages and goodwill have meant to me and my family, especially everyone who has been very vocal about the decision and called it how it is.
“It’s good to hear people from within boxing and outside of boxing say that I was robbed because that is exactly what happened.”
Never lacking self-belief, Conlan believes great things lie ahead for him.
Few would disagree. This kid is the real deal.
“I have a massive career ahead of me,” the Belfast man says with the confidence of a champion. [End Telegraph item]