IN New York Michael Conlan has a chance at revenge. In one of the more controversial decisions of recent Olympic history the Irishman was denied a medal at Rio 2016 despite seeming to outbox Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin.
That prompted a justified outburst from Conlan and spurred him on as he turned professional with promoters Top Rank. The recriminations rumbled through amateur boxing too as the Olympic sport still tries to grapple with reforming its judging system.
But for Conlan years later as a professional he gets the chance to settle the score against Nikitin. They will fight on Saturday (December 14) at Madison Square Garden.
Conlan weighed in at 125.8lbs, Nikitin was 126lbs.
“This is straight business for me. There is no personal or emotional attachment to it. Vladimir, obviously he beat me in 2013 when I moved up to bantamweight. 2016, he got the decision, but he knows deep down he needs to prove something because his career will always be remembered for losing to me in the Olympics. He’s got to prove something Saturday night. I don’t believe he will. I’ve prepared fully, and I’ve been training for 14 or 13 weeks for this camp. I’m ready for anything Saturday night,” Conlan said.
“It’s very fitting for me to be boxing here, having this rematch in MSG. This is where I re-started my boxing career after the Olympics, and this is where I’ll close the chapter. We’ll put everything in the past and we’ll stop talking about him because I’m fed up with it. I just want to take care of business and move on.”
The Russian though insisted, “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I won two bouts against him in the amateurs and, right now, this is just another big step in my professional career.
“I fought my last fight here at the [Hulu Theater] at Madison Square Garden. I’ve been in the arena. This is the next step in my professional career. I am preparing for every fight [the same]. It doesn’t matter.”
Two world title fights are on the same bill. WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford will box Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas. Both made weight Friday, Crawford was 147lbs, Kavaliauskas 146.6lbs.
“I’m starting to get used to fighting on these big stages, so it ain’t nothing new to me. This week is going to be a great, spectacular show. I am well-prepared for whatever he brings to the table, and I’m sure they know that as well,” Crawford said. “I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me. My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now. Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”
Another intriguing world title fight sees Richard Commey, 134.2lbs, put his IBF belt on the line against Teofimo Lopez, 134.4lbs.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a breathtaking moment. It’s just something I have to visualize and just know that, 22 years old, I have a great opportunity here to do a lot. I’m excited, man. What better way to finish off the year than fight in the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, for my first world title, in New York? This is a moment right here.” Lopez said.
Unified lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko will be waiting for the winner next year and the chance to become the undisputed champion.